The Toronto Theatre Review: Coal Mine Theatre’s The Sound Inside
Bella slips in quietly, tasking us to keep up and give in. She paints a solid visual standing center stage and speaking directly to us, revealing layers of dynamics that are just “so good, it enrages me“ We can’t help staying tuned in, thinking and listening to The Sound Inside, as Moya O’Connell (Shaw’s Middletown) digs into her portrayal of Bella, the writer and teacher at the center of Coal Mine Theatre‘s impressively deep and profound production. Spinning the chair hypnotically, she expands our vantage point outward and inward all at the same time. Freeing up the velocity of thought inside the inevitable, this is what is on hold and delivered out within Adam Rapp’s (Nocturne, Noble Gases) delicious play, and as directed with sure-footed wisdom and expertise by Leora Morris (Coal Mine’s Knives in Hens), the piece expertly floats forward in segments, delicately ushering in the ideas of encapsulated loneliness and the acceptance of praise that resides within, ever so quietly. O’Connell gives us an intense complication that grabs hold brilliantly, even as she exists alone scribbling words of inspired wisdom when they overtake her. It makes us wonder, is this a tale manufactured under the trees late at night, or a reckoning of deep desperation, tasking us to weigh in and lay down with her in the snowy drifts.
The dynamic elegance of the ever-shifting piece, designed with an impeccable eye for distant focus by the dynamic Wes Babcock (Matchstick’s The Woodcutter), with detailed costuming by Laura Delchiaro (Shaw’s Gem of the Ocean), incredibly subtle, yet intense lighting also by Babcock, and engaging music and sound design by Chris Ross-Ewart (Stratford’s Hamlet-911), draws us in without pushing or prodding. “You can ask me something else“, states the defended and uncomfortable, as the performative nature of an intimate conversation told in a narrative structure keeps us guessing where we truly are standing and where we are going. It never gives anything away, nor holds our outreached hand as we move forward into the unknown, and it is all done with such strange intimate power by an expert cast that breathes it all in poetically.
It’s truly captivating in its desperate loneliness, and you can’t take your eyes or ears off her for a moment, that is until the diabolically designed Christopher, beautifully embodied by the devilishly talented Aidan Correia (Touchstone’s’s Yaga) makes his appearance, without an appointment. He’s blown in wildly, as if from a cold snowy field to shift the life of a professor who didn’t know she needed the jolt. They both leans in, giving us more illumination in their stance than most can give in a soliloquy. Correia dynamically rises to her unspoken challenge, giving us a character of undeniable boyishly handsome complications that unsettles and intrigues. His ‘Old Yeller’ reduction and his storytelling of a young man’s train ride journey into internal discovery stop us in our tracks, just as it does to the unexpected complicated Bella. We can’t help but want to look deeper into that painting, or sneak a quick peek at the next paragraph, desperately wanting to understand, while enjoying the unknown and the unexplained.
Basking in the hallowed spotlight, the perfect formulations slowly fill in the tense details of what lies in The Sound Inside. Is she writing her new novel, speaking it out loud to the tree gods for approval, or is she telling us her tale so we may understand or maybe even collude with her? Or is it something more obscure? It’s hard to tell. In some ways, you don’t want to know is the only possible response that one can truly give. That’s the quandary where we find ourselves. Balancing on one of the most beautiful wrought entanglements, we navigate a thin line of understanding hidden in the layers that exist most definitively in and upon more layers. Is it all just creation, or a story of truth and confession? Are there footprints in the snow leading us somewhere? Suffice to say that there is nothing clumsy about The Sound Inside, as the two come together in a way that will haunt your imagination as you try to make sense of the imagined and what’s written. “Count to 30“, and tell me. I do have my own conclusion, but it doesn’t have to be the right or only one. Which is just so much more perfect than an obvious idea told loudly or energetically…