When Ann-Ngaire Martin saw The Sound Inside during its Broadway run in late 2019, the work left her feeling blown out of her seat.
“The play really imprinted on me in a very beautiful way,” said Martin, who is directing a production of the play for The Next Stage at Arc Stages beginning February 2.
Martin, a Katonah resident, hopes to share with Westchester audiences the same excitement she felt over the Adam Rapp play that also thrilled critics and the theater world; the play received six Tony Award nominations in 2020 and won a best actress Tony for Mary-Louise Parker.
Rapp’s work is a contemplative drama about a brilliant Ivy League writing professor who develops an intense bond with one of her talented writing students. The dialog is a theatrical buffet for fans of literature. The characters pepper their statements with references to The Catcher in the Rye, Crime and Punishment, Old Yeller, Infinite Jest, and other works.
The procession of bookish references might appear to be a challenge to follow for diverse audiences that may not share the same literary canon. However, Martin insisted that the work remains accessible to all because its themes transcend books.
She explains: “It is a very intellectually centered play in the sense that the people in it live in their minds, but I still think it’s accessible to the everyday person because of the human aspect…Maybe some of us didn’t read Crime and Punishment in high school, but the human aspects of it are universal and you don’t have to read about it…There is nothing about this play that does not speak to me as a human being.”
Martin is one of The Next Stage’s founders. She came to Arc Stages from the Chappaqua Drama Group, where she oversaw the sale of the group’s dilapidated building and used the proceeds to start The Next Stage, where she has directed several productions.
At times, the actors fretted about how they would hold audiences’ focus but, she says, “once you start living it, walking it, and you’re interacting with the audience, it doesn’t seem like that.”
She described rehearsals for The Sound Inside as a luxury because there are only two actors—Joan Hess and Henry Nicholas Temple. Noting that her production is very different from the Broadway version, she added: “We had all the rehearsal time for just the three of us to discover it and make it our very own.”
The Sound Inside runs from February 2-17 at Arc Stages in Pleasantville.