The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time: brilliantly skewed

Mixed Blood Theatre, through Dec 3

Bruce Young and MacGregor Arney in THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME. Photo by Rich Ryan

The powerful and touching drama, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mixed Blood, through Dec 3), opens when Christopher, an English lad who lives with his father in a working-class community, discovers the neighbor’s dog dead in the yard, killed with a garden fork. Though Christopher has a difficult time relating to people sympathetically, he is greatly distressed by the dog’s murder. Despite his discomfort around people he sets out to interview neighbors to uncover who killed the dog. The story moves at a fast clip as Christopher’s search for the dog’s assailant evolves into his search for a missing family member.

Note: the Broadway tour of this play played recently at the Orpheum. It was reviewed by‘s David and Chelsea Berglund. You may read their review here.

Fifteen-year-old Christopher struggles to understand cruelty and deception. One of the play’s great strengths is that we are never given a diagnosis for Christopher. His character simply unfolds. We watch him rock back and forth on his heels, refusing to look anyone in the eye. He recites prime numbers up to the thousands and fidgets, stiff fingered, with the strings of his hooded sweatshirt. He dreams of becoming an astronaut on a solo flight, surrounded by the things he loves, machines and computers, miles and miles away from other people. What Christopher struggles with in this play, trying to cope with brutality and deceit is a universal condition. Incident touches the nerve that makes us want to run for seclusion in a world filled with inexplicable events and bad news.

The play, adapted by Simon Stephens from the popular novel by Mark Haddon, opened in London at the National Theatre in 2012 and won the Tony for best Broadway play in 2015. Under Jack Reuler’s excellent direction at Mixed Blood theatre, Incident is performed by a fine ensemble of actors, many of whom take several parts. Christopher, as played by MacGregor Arney, is both disarmingly charming as he finds it impossible to lie and frustratingly difficult to live with given his consistent detachment, his literal mindedness and his fear of physical contact, not to mention his tendency to have high-pitched screaming fits. Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour play, Arney stays true to his character. The boy is never robotic and never self-consciously cute.

Zack Myers also turns in a very strong performance as Christopher’s father, as does Regan Linton as the school teacher/narrator. On opening night Miriam Laube, as a London resident pushed her early speeches too hard, but improved as the play progressed.

It’s always a pleasure to watch an ensemble work together seamlessly as they make set pieces appear from under the stage and perform slight costume changes and switch characters in the blink of an eyelash. My one objection to the staging is the multitude of projections used by video designer Kathy Maxwell. Projections have become so prevalent in theatre productions that they sometimes upstage actors and the action on stage. Hopefully this technique will soon settle into being just one more tool in the designer’s box.

But that’s a small complaint. There are no unrealistic miracles in this show, but by the end Christopher is a more confident, capable person with fresh aspirations. That’s good news.


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