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The Sound Inside

Mary-Louise Parker on Coming Home to the Theater

Tony, Emmy, and Golden Globe Award winner Mary-Louise Parker is in high demand on Broadway. She made her stand-out debut in Prelude to a Kiss, won the Tony for Proof, and was most recently acclaimed for her performance in Heisenberg. Now, the actress is currently at Studio 54 for The Sound Inside, in which she plays a college professor named Bella who befriends a mysterious student. The New York Times has deemed it a Critic’s Pick, calling it, “An astonishing new play,” with Parker in “a sensationally controlled performance.” NY1 entertainment journalist Frank DiLella recently caught up with Parker.

Welcome back to Broadway with The Sound Inside! How would you describe this play?

One of the things that I love about this piece is that it’s kind of impossible to describe. I’m always really interested in people’s reactions, and from the very first time we performed it at Williamstown [Theatre Festival], I was shocked with the way people received it. I just never would have anticipated that they found it so gripping and a thriller, and I think that’s a testament to David Cromer, my director. He’s able to achieve style, and at the same time he really knows how to keep things truthful and evolving and simple.

This is being called a psychological suspense play. Why?

I think that’s apt. I think that’s how people receive it. This play keeps evolving as you’re watching it, so you’re never exactly sure what’s reality. It’s nonlinear. And I think that’s what keeps people not always certain what happens next.

This show was originally commissioned by Lincoln Center and then began its life with a brief premiere run at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. What are the differences between that staging and the Broadway production?

Studio 54 is so much bigger than Williamstown and I really wasn’t certain that it could play to a house this big. Again, a testament to our director, David Cromer. He was able to distill it into this space in a way that makes it still really potent for the audience.

The show plays like you’re writing and reading to the audience.

That sort of came out of rehearsal, and I kind of like the idea of having a pen with me. What’s really nice about our playwright, Adam Rapp, is that he doesn’t include a lot of stage direction, so he leaves things open for interpretation.

Why was it important to you to bring The Sound Inside to Broadway?

There are so few houses now, and a lot of times shows are coming over from London. To get a new American play on Broadway, you have to seize the opportunity. I feel really passionate about new American plays, and that’s been one of the most important, defining things about my life as an actor. And I really wanted Adam to be on Broadway. This is his Broadway debut, even though he’s a Pulitzer finalist and the author of dozens of great plays and novels.

What has it been like working with the only other actor on stage with you, Will Hochman? He’s making his Broadway debut opposite you.

It’s been fun watching someone go through all the firsts. He’s so humble, and diligent, and kind of unabashedly excited. That’s nice — he’s not trying to have some sort of cool façade. He’s loving all of it, and it’s really infectious and fun.

You’re able to pivot between screen and stage, garnering accolades and awards wherever you go – yet you always come back to the theater.

It’s really why I started acting, and it’s when I feel most like myself as an actor. It’s incredibly arduous, and I feel really blessed for all the experiences that I’ve been able to have. It’s the closest I’ve come to feeling like I’m part of some sort of group of people of where I belong — the theater in New York.

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