The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, at the Orpheum

Mark Langdon in The Curious Incident Of The Dog in the Nightime. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Mark Langdon in The Curious Incident Of The Dog in the Nightime. Photo by Joan Marcus.

One of the great strengths of Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is that is does not compromise its perspective, detailing the world through the eyes of a young autistic boy and demanding that its readers understand its unstated contexts. This makes it an unexpected choice for a theatrical adaptation – how does one capture such a perspective when everything is right there in front of everyone to see?

Turns out there is a way, and it involves one of the more ingenious productions in recent Broadway history, now touring at The Orpheum though December 4th. Employing a complex, but pointed array of spoken narration, visual displays, eclectic sound design, vibrant lighting, and fluid blocking, director Marianne Elliott and writer Simon Stephens have provided a visceral experience, capturing the overwhelming and discombobulating nature of life seen through a unique lens.

That is not to say Curious Incident lacks coherency or heart. The story, detailing the discoveries of its endlessly curious protagonist Christopher as he navigates new landscapes and unearths discomfiting family secrets, is inherently stirring and Adam Langdon captures this young man with a fitting mix of physicality and timing, communicating in silence the complicated emotions he feels and concurrently struggles to grasp.

Perhaps the most affecting and resonant aspect of the story is the challenging relationship Christopher’s parents have with their son. Because Christopher reacts poorly to physical touch and is unable to display—or perhaps even process—the emotions he is feeling, his parents’ roles are extraordinarily demanding. Gene Gillette, as Christopher’s father, conveys this difficulty particularly well, and he fills a mid-play scene following some heated revelations with shades of suppressed devastation. Additionally, the show’s narration leans on the patient relationship between Christopher and his teacher, Siobhan, played with graciousness and tenderness by Maria Elena Ramirez.

A string of accolades and praise have been given to the dynamic design of this production, and it indeed tours quite well. The boxy, futurist set deepens the Orpheum’s stage and beautifully illustrates the inner life of Curious Incident’s complicated protagonist. Kudos to the many skilled artists working on this show: the lighting designer Paule Constable, the set designer Bunny Christie, the video designer Finn Ross, and the sound designer Ian Dickinson.

While we could perhaps quibble with a slightly stilted supporting performance or two or yearn for a smaller venue to allow for greater intimacy, this would distract from the truth that to see this show is to see fresh theater. Further, the show explores unique themes that are rarely explored. Touring productions are generally safe affairs that play to broad audiences with archetypal characters, and while that may be fun, it is great to see something more challenging making the rounds. (Ditto for the upcoming Orpheum run of Fun Home – no doubt coming to town thanks to its Tony triumphs alongside Curious Incident’s Best Play win.) Whether you are a theater lover looking to experience this exciting work or a compassionate soul seeking a deeper understanding of those who do not fit in with societal norms, you will not be disappointed.

David and Chelsea Berglund review movies at the site Movie Matrimony.

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