The cast of The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time. Photo by Jonathan Roberts.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
A play by Simon Stephens
Based on the novel by Mark Haddon
Directed by Meredith McDonough
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2018 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Not so many years ago, a person diagnosed with a behavioral and/or learning disability would have been sent to a “special” school or home where, most of the time, just their basic needs were met, with little human interaction or development.
Thank goodness for curiosity and decency. In the past century, there have been great improvements in understanding the unique autistic individual. There are even special classes, often found within “normal” schools, that are staffed with teachers and caregivers who are specially trained to work with, assist and encourage learning. The work is daunting, but when a student unlocks a new discovery or succeeds in conquering a stumbling block, I could only imagine the reward.
As the curtain rises on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time we see 15-year-old Christopher Boone (Alexander Stuart), on his knees and hunched over the body of his neighbor’s dog, which has been involved in a fatal accident. He is being interrogated by the dog’s owner, Mrs. Shears (Maya Jackson), who accuse him of being responsible. He assures Mrs. Shears she is wrong and when a police officer arrives it escalates into a physical confrontation. Christopher’s father Ed (Brian Slaten) coaxes the police to be lenient with Christopher and he is let off with a warning. Ed warns his son against any further involvement, but in Christopher’s beautiful mind he discovers a loophole that allows him to continue his quest, without technically breaking his promise.
“This is all excellent writing, Christopher!” (or something to that effect) exclaims Siobhan (Tina Chilip), Christopher’s teacher at the school.
What makes this play unique is that we are watching and listening to the development of a play, derived from a book that Christopher wrote for Siobhan’s class. The play is written in Christopher’s voice and Curious is presented to us in that way.
As Christopher puts on his sleuth’s cap he learns things about his mother and father through his neighbor Mrs. Alexander (Sherman Fracher) that reveals that his father had not been honest and forthright with him, especially as pertains to his mother, Judy (Jessica Wortham).
After a fight with Ed, Christopher sets out to find his mother who, according to letters that he had discovered in his father’s closet, lives in London. With a little help and a love of trains, he arrives at his mother’s house that she shares with Christopher’s former neighbor Roger Shears (Luis Moreno).
Kristen Robinson’s Scenic Designs, Paul Toben’s Lighting Designs, and Philip Allgeier’s very clever Media Designs, all brought a fantastic level of excitement and ingenuity to the production, complete with hidden doors, super-imposed emojis, and dynamic lighting.
Many of the cast members of Curious play multiple roles, all of which were well executed. Luis Moreno’s Roger was a cad and he delivered as such. Sherman Fracher’s Mrs. Alexander had a nosy yet creepy neighbor vibe. While Jessica Wortham expertly played Judy, I feel that the character is not well developed. I enjoyed Brian Slaten’s interpretation of Ed very much. He truly expressed his frustrations of raising his special son as well as how much he does love him.
Tina Chilip’s portrayal of Siobhan was filled with support, nurturing, and adoration of her student Christopher. Based on his growth and maturity as portrayed in his autobiography, her way of teaching probably exceeded her own expectations.
There aren’t enough superlatives to explain Alexander Stuart’s performance as Christopher. It was absolutely exciting and uplifting to watch Mr. Stuart portray an Autistic young man. He was unapologetic and full of verve and purpose.
Thank you to Actors Theatre’s Inclusion & Education Consultant Talleri McRae and Director Meredith McDonough for reaching out to agencies such as the Kentuckiana Autistic Spectrum Alliance to educate the cast, crew, and audiences into how a person on the spectrum may experience this production.
Run, do not walk, to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and immerse yourself in this magnificent, Tony Award-winning play. You may learn something about someone or even about yourself.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
September 18 – October 10, 2018
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.