Fifteen year old mathematical genius and person with an autism-spectrum disorder, Christopher Boone (Adam Langdon), is the central character of Simon Stephen’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, an intriguing and thoroughly original play onstage now at DPAC under the direction of Marianne Elliot. Christopher is not your typical play-protagonist, which is part of what makes this script, based on the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon, so intriguing and so fresh and unique. Another part of the play’s strength is the believability of the characters and, perhaps the greatest strength of all, the fact that it easily transports viewers into Christopher’s brain and enables them to see the world in the fascinating and confusing manner that he does.
The play opens with Christopher discovering his neighbor’s dead dog, Wellington. The dog, displayed morbidly and prominently in the middle of the stage from the very start, has been stabbed to death with a garden fork. Immediately, as Christopher is accused of being the perpetrator of this heinous crime and questioned by a police officer, his difficulties interacting with others are made clear. And, as this spell-bounding script unwinds, under the guise of Christopher’s teacher, Siobhan (Maria Elena Ramirez) reading a book Christopher has written, the audience comes to know, love, and understand Christopher, as well as to question their initial reactions to him, and thus, to others like him.
As the story unfolds, Christopher goes on a mad search to find out who murdered Wellington. His quest, which has him cross paths with everyone from his elderly neighbor to the owner of Wellington herself, is at times humorous but always fresh and enlightening. And, when the first act reveal comes, the audience is already so enmeshed into Christopher’s world and his search that’s it’s a major shock…one that makes it so that the equally-gripping second act can’t come quickly enough.
Under Elliot’s direction and staging, everyone in Christopher’s world moves in smooth, linear ways, at least when they’re a part of Christopher’s thoughts or are existing in a space that’s comfortable for him. When he’s uncomfortable or somewhere unfamiliar, the staging changes to feature jerky, harried movements and utter confusion all around- this last part, the utter confusion, is also brought to life via clever lighting and an amazingly interactive and versatile set. All of these things serve to help give viewers a glimpse of what it’s like to exist inside of Christopher’s head- a pretty amazing feat.
Langdon is phenomenal and utterly believable as Christopher, and his interactions with everyone- from the large ensemble cast who plays multiple, changing roles to the other major characters- are quite telling, as well as fascinating to watch. Ramirez gives an understated performance as Christopher’s teacher, while Gene Gillette is surprisingly human and sympathetic as Ed, Christopher’s father. Likewise, Felicity Jones Latta creates a Judy (Christopher’s mother) who is multi-layered and complex.
The story, with its cast of flawed but oh-so-real characters, moves quickly as Christopher makes one discovery after the next and ends on a somewhat hopeful note, but also one that asks the viewer to do some thinking as well. Indeed, the end of the script asks viewers to question what they think is possible for Christopher, his life, and his potential, positing that the answer given might just say more about the viewer than anything else.
Full of wordplay, clever humor, and unforgettable characters, this wonderfully unique show is not one to miss. There may not be one quite like it for some time…if ever.