There is no denying the theatrical pleasures in the award-winning play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Jaw-dropping tech wizardry: lights, sounds, stage effects (rear-wall projections, glowing set pieces).
The cast astounds, as well, with all but the lead assuming multiple parts, changing characters on a dime, and executing the thrilling choreography (though it is not a musical) of Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett, as if to the marley born.
But when we come to the end of this long bildungsroman and the gift of atonement the father, Ed (Gene Gillette), gives to his son, Christopher (Adam Langdon in Wednesday night’s performance) — well, I felt slightly hornswoggled. After taking this psychological and physical journey, Christopher deserves more because he has become more. And, frankly, I still hadn’t gotten over Ed’s actions, revealed at the end of Act I.
Too, I found the rest of the denouement rather facile; a number of the scenes shrill with the same kind of panic on the part of Christopher or the adults around him; and the Act II reference to the play-within-a-play technique awkward.
But should you see it? Absolutely.
Christopher is a 15-year-old with an undefined developmental disability, leaving him unable to touch others or put up with metaphor (he can’t lie, and metaphors are a kind of lie) or negotiate the world with age-appropriate social skills. He can, however, solve complicated math problems with ease.
When the play opens, he has just discovered his neighbor’s dog murdered. Now he’s determined to find Wellington’s killer, but his investigation leads instead to clues about his parents’ marriage. He experiences new depths of anger and withdrawal, but, as is the case with a peripatetic hero, he discovers competencies he didn’t have at the beginning of the play.
The script is by Simon Stephens, from Mark Haddon’s novel. Under the all-knowing direction of Marianne Elliott, who helmed the premiere at the National Theater in 2012, this touring production features stellar work from Gillette, as a gruff, yet loving father; Maria Elena Ramirez as Christopher’s sensitive teacher; and Felicity Jones Latta as Judy, Christopher’s erratic mother. They are surrounded by an ensemble that believably makes characters and scenes spring to brief life; indeed, scenes flow seamlessly from one to the next, suggesting the influence of theater games and improvisation in the rehearsal process.
Langdon’s Christopher is a tortured, beautiful piece of humanity, so winning in his innocence and heartbreaking in his vulnerability. The 25-year-old actor is a marvel of timing, line reading, and physical expression, but it’s to everyone’s credit that you can take your eyes off him when he’s part of a scene.
The observation “The truth shall set you free” came to mind as I watched the adults in Christopher’s life struggle to realize it. And I wondered, at times, who was developmentally disabled.
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