Urbanite Theatre Asks You to Listen to The Sound Inside

Adam Rapp's two-hander centers on a professor, a student and the act of writing.

By Kay Kipling October 21, 2023

Vickie Daignault and Evan Stevens in Urbanite Theatre's The Sound Inside.

A middle-aged female college professor living alone, a young male student equally isolated from much of the world around him, one-on-one meetings during office hours—you may think you know where playwright Adam Rapp is headed with The Sound Inside, a regional premiere now playing at Urbanite Theatre, but you would probably be wrong.

The two do indeed draw closer than the ideal, appropriate teacher-student relationship. But, aside from a brief moment, they don’t touch, nor do they whisper any sweet nothings in each other’s ears. They are, in fact, two lonely people, who seem more at one with their need to write than they do with any other human beings.

The woman is Bella Baird (Vickie Daignault), who’s taught creative writing in the rarefied atmosphere of Yale for years, and she’s talking to us, the audience, now partly because she’s got virtually no one else to talk to. With her parents dead, no siblings and apparently no friends (at one point she has to struggle to come up with the name of her occasional tennis partner, so removed is she from human companionship), she’s facing a cancer diagnosis that leaves her little hope of returning to the writing career that hasn’t been alive since a well-reviewed novel from 17 years earlier.

Daignault as creative writing professor Bella Baird.

Enter Christopher (Evan Stevens), a freshman student who’s enthralled by the novel their class together is studying (Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment), but not by his fellow students or social media. He doesn’t even like to send emails, which is why he turns up unannounced at Bella’s office for their first few discussions. And he can be off-putting; there’s an anger inside him that erupts in one scene into him spitting on the floor of Bella’s office. (He does return to clean the floor, though.)

What brings them together, aside from loneliness and their need to write? Because it’s customary these days to preface any story or play that might contain discussion of suicide with a preliminary warning, the viewer is forearmed to expect that such a discussion will arise. There’s a gathering tension and foreboding in the characters’ ongoing dialogue (and occasional monologues), as Christopher gradually reveals to Bella the plot of a story he’s writing—about a student named Christopher who travels to New York City in the company of a rather mysterious stranger.

Will they both live to hear the end of that story? In a play that revolves mostly around talk, not action, that’s one question that keeps us watching, under the mostly taut direction of Kristin Clippard. The staging here is simple, with a set design by Tom Hansen that allows a movable pair of tall shelves and a couple of chairs to transfer us from Bella’s office to a restaurant or her home easily.

Daignault and Stevens are both believable as people for whom writing a story is more important than any of life’s other offerings. As Bella says, “Loving a book is sort of like having an affair,” and her description of a brief and not very satisfying sexual encounter provides more proof of that, in some of Rapp’s more humorous writing.

The Sound Inside may be particularly intriguing, then, to those who care deeply about writing and reading, but it should provide enough insight and suspense even for those not so inclined.

The production continues through Sunday, Dec. 3; for tickets, call (941) 321-1397 or visit

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