Elena Passarello Returns to the Stage for the Tony-Nominated Drama by Adam Rapp
By SHARON EBERSON
It doesn’t get much more barebones than the role of a well-known writing professor being played by a renowned writer. That’s barebones as in Patrick Jordan’s barebones productions, and the writer happens to be Elena Passarello, an actor-author and barebones alum who will star in the Pittsburgh premiere of The Sound Inside.
Opening August 11 at the Barebones Black Box Theater in Braddock, The Sound Inside is part of the company’s 20th anniversary season and marks its 23rd Pittsburgh premiere.
On Broadway, the Tony Award-nominated two-hander by Adam Rapp featured Mary-Louise Parker, in a Tony-winning performance. She played Yale writing professor Bella, the part to be played by Passarello, an actor, essayist, educator and recipient of a 2015 Whiting Award for creative writing. As a performer, she starred for barebones in the prison drama Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (2012) and was in the original cast of Christopher Durang’s Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge at City Theatre (2002).
Passarello’s essays have been published in newspapers and national literary journals nationwide, and her local ties – she studied creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh – were on display in her award-winning essay collection Let Me Clear My Throat, in which she included Myron Cope’s “Yoy!” among famous voices from cultural history.
Passarello currently teaches creative writing at Oregon State University and appears weekly on the PRX radio variety show Live Wire.
As Bella in The Sound Inside, she portrays an isolated creative writing professor who begins to mentor a brilliant, enigmatic student named Christopher (Max Pavel). The pair form an unexpectedly intense bond, and Bella makes a surprising request that neither knows if he can fulfill. Rapp’s play, heralded by The New York Times as “a gripping mystery,” explores the limits of what one person can ask of another.
“This show is a ‘coming home’ for barebones in so many ways,” says director Jordan, barebones’ founder and artistic director. “To be able to have Elena back in Pittsburgh and working in a capacity that touches so many aspects of her impressive career is like catching lightning in a jar. Her performance will leave the audience speechless.”
As Christopher, Pavel brings stage credits from Pittsburgh to California to Paris, plus screen work in A Man Called Otto, American Rust and Outsiders. The creative team of The Sound Inside includes Andrew David Ostrowski (lighting), Claire Durr (stage manager) and Tony Ferrieri (set design).
“I count us extremely lucky to have produced the amount and level of Pittsburgh premieres and ‘never before seen’ works that we have in our 20-year history,” Jordan said in a statement. “I take a lot of personal pride in bringing this type of theater to Pittsburgh stages, and that fire and passion is still there 20 years later, stronger than ever.”
He added that bringing the local premiere of one of Rapp’s works to his Braddock theater “is such a gift. That’s not lost on me, and I know our audiences will feel it, too.”
TICKETS AND DETAILS
The Sound Inside is at Barebones Black Box, Bingo O’Malley Stage, 1211 Braddock Ave., Braddock, August 11-26, 2023. Visit https://www.barebonesproductions.com/ for tickets and details; discounts for students and artists are available at the door when available.