SARASOTA — On Friday evening, Urbanite Theatre in downtown Sarasota kicked off its 10th season with the regional premiere of Adam Rapp's 2018 drama The Sound Inside.
Rapp is a prolific playwright who has found success writing across multiple genres and formats, including young adult and literary fiction as a novelist, in addition to his varied work as a screenwriter/director.
In many ways, The Sound Inside is a love letter to the importance of prose and storytelling to the human experience, and Rapp's choice to use theater to honor literature is validated by a play that successfully manages to convey literary beauty in a way that is both intimate and universal.
Bella Lee Baird is a minor novelist and Yale creative writing professor facing a bleak prognosis for stage two cancer when she encounters an awkward male student whose recognizable passion for the written word strikes a chord with the otherwise unmoored writer.
Christopher is a fitfully whimsical student who is so enthralled by Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (which he is studying in Baird's lit class) that she recognizes a rare opportunity to experience the somewhat esoteric appreciation of her art form with someone whose interest is resoundingly simpatico.
Vickie Daignault, who has turned in memorable performances at American Stage in St. Pete, is captivating in her Urbanite debut as Bella. Recent FSU/Asolo Conservatory grad Evan Stevens is downright spellbinding as Christopher, an enigmatic character who calls to mind literary legends such as Holden Caufield and John Yossarian.
What makes Urbanite's production of The Sound Inside work so well, however, is not the rapt dialog or gorgeous soliloquies, or even the inspired performances of Daignault and Stevens. This two-character drama requires chemistry above all, and Daignault and Stevens have it in spades.
Opening night saw the sort of drum-tight performance that is rarely achieved even by the end of a healthy run, as the two performers batted lines back and forth with the comfort and grace of a long-time comedy duo dusting off a well-honed act. Considering the dramatic nature of the material, the effect of such excellent tone and timing is magnified considerably.
Urbanite's inspired production of The Sound Inside is a tremendous credit to Rapp's creative triumph, giving audiences much to think about after the curtain drops. As an opener, it also bodes quite well as Urbanite's season continues.
Directed by Kristin Clippard, The Sound Inside runs through Dec. 3. Visit the Urbanite website for schedule and ticket information.