The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: An Intense and Moving Theatrical Experience

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

photo: Nile Hawver-Nile Scott Shots

The 2015 Tony Award winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time now playing at Boston’s SpeakEasy Company was adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon’s bestseller of the same name. It is a very imaginative theatrical play where what is seen is as important as the words heard.

It revolves around Christopher Boone, a high functioning mathematically gifted autistic fifteen year old boy who lives in Swindon, England. Although the word autism is never mentioned, his behavior and the production make his problems clear. Given that he prefers his own company he does not socialize with people. As a result, he is extremely naïve about the way the world functions. He cannot bear physical contact with people. Even his parents are allowed only to reach out a hand and touch Christopher’s hand while he stands at a distance. However he has a pet rat he cares for tenderly. He dreams of becoming an astronaut, a profession where he could be alone and fly towards the planets.

His brilliance notwithstanding Christopher attends a school where, according to his descriptions, the rest of the pupils are cognitively impaired. Despite being in his early teens, he is going to be the first of its students to take A Levels in Math (or any other subject).

In the first scene, which takes place outside in the night-time, a dog is lying on the grass, a large garden fork protruding from its dead body. Christopher and a neighbor are staring mutely at it. A third character, Siobhan, Christopher’s special education teacher peers out a window reading from journal that describes the event. We discover Christopher is writing it at her request.

Christopher, a fan of Sherlock Holmes, decides to track down the dog’s murderer. In the process, he learns that his mother whom he thought dead is living in London. Furious with his father who lied to him, he goes to London to find her, an enormous task for someone who has never travelled alone and shuns people and change as much as he can. Act two reveals that Christopher has taken Siobhans’s advice and developed his earlier writing into a play since he occasionally makes comments to an actor. The act deals with the difficulties of the trip, the problematic reunion, his return to Swindon with his mother, and his eventual forgiveness of his father. And yes, the dog’s killer is found and Christopher passes the math A Levels with a star.

For this beautifully directed production, director Paul Daigneault uses a thrust stage that allows the audience an intimacy with the actors as well as the room the play needs. Justin and Christopher Swader’s striking set is stark. The stage and back wall are black with white mathematic scribblings on them. Before the play starts the boy wearing a red sweat shirt – his favorite color – comes on wrapped in his own thoughts and writes formulas on the back wall. In the middle of the stage is a vivid black glass playing area. On the front of the wall on both sides are elevated cubes. Down front there is one cube on either side of the glass floor. Jeff Adelberg’s complex lighting is stunning. Good use is made of props such as the toy train that supposedly takes him to London. Actors, most of whom play several roles, are also used as props such as doors and ladders, an idea that coincides with Christopher’s lack of connection with people.

Eliott Purcell brings Christopher Boone to life showing us his vulnerability, his egocentricity, his need for solitude, his tantrums, the odd ways he copes, and his brilliance.  Craig Mathers is excellent as Ed Boone, Christopher’s father whom he makes a sympathetic character. He is filled with love for his son, anger at his wife, and at times is self-loathing. Laura Latreille (who also wears red) is believable as Christopher’s ambivalent mother.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time continues at SpeakEasy at the Calderwood Pavilion until November 25.

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin   Photo by Nile Hawver-Nile Scott Shots

Play by Simon Stephens based on the Novel by Mark Haddon

Directed by Paul Daigneault

Movement Direction by Yo-El Cassell

Scenic Design by Christopher and Justin Swader

Costume Design by Gail Astrid Buckley

Lighting Design by Jeff Adelberg

Sound Design by David Remedios

Props Design by Joe Stallone

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Siobhan …………………………………………….. Jackie Davis

Roger Shears/Duty Sergeant/ Ensemble …………….Tim Hackney

Judy Boone …………………………………………. Laura Latreille

Ed Boone …………………………………………… Craig Mathers

Mrs. Alexander/Posh Woman/Ensemble …………….Christine Power

Christopher Boone ……………………………………Eliott Purcell

Policeman/Mr. Thompson/Ensemble …………………Alejandro Simoes

Reverend Peters/Uncle Terry/Ensemble ………………Damon Singletary

No. 40/Lady in Street/Ensemble ………………………Gigi Watson

 

 

 

 

 


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