Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I will admit to being skeptical about this play. I loved the book and it was difficult for me to imagine a play doing the unique cadence of the book justice.  I'm happy to report I may actually like the play better than the book, a curious thing indeed!

Crafting a story around a central character who engages with the world from somewhere on the autism spectrum is challenging.  It's a delicate balance between exploiting stereotypes and investing in an often misunderstood perspective. Christopher, played beautifully by Adam Langdon on the night I attended (played by Benjamin Wheelwright for alternate showtimes), is immediately recognizable as That Kid from anyone's childhood: brilliant, impossible, socially struggling. Langdon perfectly captures the physicality of Christopher's world, aided throughout by expert lighting and sound that drive home the intensity of even the smallest action when one lives life as hyper alert, hyper aware, hyper sensitive.

The play begins with Christopher's discovery of the murdered dog of a neighbor, inspiring an obsessive desire to solve the heinous crime. What begins as one specific mystery leads quickly to bigger, darker mysteries surrounding Christopher's home life and each unraveling sends Christopher spinning.  While Christopher is certainly the driver of the story, he is anchored onstage by expert turns from Maria Elena Ramirez, playing Siobhan, a loving, dedicated teacher, and Gene Gillette, playing Christopher's father, Ed. The people who love Christopher circle him, sometimes from a safe distance, and attempt to help him make sense of an often nonsensical environment.

There is no perfect resolution to this story. For that reason, it seems to beat with a real, bloody heartbeat. It's noisy, funny, heartbreaking, overwhelming, bright, and in the end, beautiful. In other words, well worth a trip to the Orpheum.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is playing now through December 4th.  You can purchase tickets online at the Hennepin Theatre Trust and don't forget the rush seats available for students and teachers!

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