“A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at Bushnell Is Perfect for Teens

Les Liaisons DangerusesBooth Theatre

Photo by Joan Marcus

By Karen Isaacs

Nowadays, it is something of  a rarity for a play to do a national tour. But I’m very glad that the hit Broadway production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time did go out on tour and that it is at the Bushnell through Sunday, Jan.

On opening night many 20-somethings were in the audience; the book on which the play was based was read in many schools eight to ten years ago.

The tour is a faithful replication of most of the Broadway (and before that London) production which features incredible sound, set and lighting design.

Sometimes a play’s production values overtakes its characters and action.  It ends up being “all sound and fury.”  This is not the case with this show.

Simon Stephens has adapted the book of the same name by Mark Haddon and director Marianne Elliott and her production team has turned it into a moving and thrilling night of theater.

Christopher Boone is a 15-year-old autistic teen with a sensory overload disorder living with his father in a quiet suburban English town. He finds touch and noise particularly disturbing. He is discovered at midnight petting the body of his neighbor’s dog who has been stabbed to death with a pitchfork.  The neighbor, Mrs. Shears, believes Christopher has killed Wellington and calls the police, but after a night in jail, his father bails him out.  Christopher is determined to discover who DID kill Wellington, whom he loved yet his father strictly forbids it.

But Christopher is determined and with the encouragement of his school social worker, Siobhan, he starts out questioning various neighbors and developing theories about the murder. What Christopher discovers is much more complex than just who killed Wellington.

First of all, this autistic teen who is also mathematically gifted, pushes his own boundaries.  He overcomes some of his anxieties to talk to people and even to use public transportation.  You can see him gaining confidence.

But Christopher also begins to unravel the truth about other mysteries in his life.  I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not read the book, but let us say that he had been given information that was not accurate and his discoveries shake up not only his world but the worlds of all around him.

The book was originally written for children (late pre-teens and teens primarily), but this is a story and play that will appeal to any audience.

Christopher and the adults around him have to learn to accept the newly maturing Christopher.  He is moving from dependence to independence and starting to plot his own course.  His father, who has been the sole parent for several years, has to learn to let go and allow Christopher to function.  His father must also deal with his own emotionally baggage.

The acting is very good. Adam Langdon plays Christopher; he captures the social ineptness and earnestness of Christopher while never making him a caricature. Yet, I did feel that his performance did not have the subtlety of the original; perhaps it is because the tour plays such large theaters.  He is surround by an ensemble who play multiple roles.  Maria Elena Ramirez is the sympathetic and supportive social worker who is never cloying.  Tim Wright, an understudy, was excellent as Ed, a hard-working, loving and protective father. Felecity Jones Latta as Judy shows us a mother who is over-whelmed by the difficulties of raising a child with disabilities.

What makes this production so extraordinary is how the entire production team has brought us into Christopher’s world.  From the opening moments when we are assaulted by an ear-splitting sound, we are in a world where sound, light and even touch can be overwhelming and painful. The walls at the back and sides of the stage display electronic symbols and dots and dashes like a giant telegraph or computer.  I can only imagine that this must be something like how Christopher feels — assaulted everywhere by sights, sounds, touches — that overload his sensory system.

Yet, I do have a quibble: the Bushnell sound system is so loud that the noise is not just startling but actually painful and the actors sound disembodied.

A second quibble is due to the size of the theaters the tour is playing — most things are overplayed. Christopher’s head twitches constantly.

But these are just minor complaints.  So even if you usually attend musicals, this is a show you should see. It is a great show for older kids and teens.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is worth seeing. It is at the Bushnell on Capitol Ave, Hartford through Jan. 1. For tickets visit Bushnell.

 

Les Liaisons DangerusesBooth Theatre

Photo by Joan Marcus

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