‘The Sound and the Fury’ is a confusing yet engrossing Faulkner reboot
By Elisabeth Vincentelli
You could expect “The Sound and the Fury” to be a tedious slog. And yet, strangely, it’s not.
This fearful anticipation comes from the fact that the show is a verbatim staging of the first part of Faulkner’s novel of the same name — which is legendarily hard to get through, with a plotless chronology that jumps all over the place and a confusing stream-of-consciousness structure.
As if this weren’t foreboding enough, different actors play the same person at different times, and there’s no traditional characterization.
Don’t go in expecting to understand everything, and you won’t be disappointed.
Fans of Elevator Repair Service’s “Gatz” — a seven-hour, freak hit adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” — will be similarly excited by the company’s earlier take on Faulkner, which is now being reprised at the Public.
As in “Gatz,” the text is lifted verbatim from the book, right down to the “she said” and other attributions. But this time the troupe focuses solely on one part of the novel, a self-contained epic narrated by Benjy Compson. He was “born loony” and is played mostly by the gamine-like Susie Sokol, though she barely ever speaks. At other times he’s played by Aaron Landsman — you can tell because he and Sokol wear the same red sweatshirt.
The action takes place between 1898 and 1928, but the cast is in downscale, contemporary-casual outfits (button-downs over T-shirts, jeans), and moves about David Zinn’s shabby parlor-room set, with its Goodwill-type furniture.
As directed by John Collins, the fractured show reflects the jumble inside Benjy’s head: Actors trade roles without regard for gender, age or race. Sometimes they launch into high-energy choreography. Sounds (by Matt Tierney) take over, as if amplified — the sync with the cast’s gestures is astonishingly precise. Sentences from the text are projected on a back wall.
The constant sensory overload means that your attention is nearly always engaged — nearly, because the pace flags in the last third, once we’ve gotten used to all the tricks. And then the finale reels you right back in with unexpected poignancy.
This isn’t a show for everybody — a couple of people walked out at a recent performance — but it rewards open minds.
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