A murder. An investigation. A journey. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, based on a book by Mark Haddon and adapted by Simon Stephens, is a mystery that allows the audience a peek into the world of an autistic boy’s quest for the truth. Along the way, he discovers more than he could have imagined.
Christopher Boone (played by neurodivergent actor Maurice Kimball IV) is a 15-year-old math prodigy who resides in Swindon. His mother died from a heart problem, leaving him with his father, Ed, (played by Terence Cranendonk) to navigate the world by themselves. It is an especially confusing time for Christopher, as his neighbor’s dog has been mortally skewered by a garden fork and Christopher is suspected of the murder. Wanting to clear his name, he begins investigating close to home and ends up much further away from what’s comfortable than he anticipates.
Directed by Bill Roudebush, Christopher’s adventure takes him from the homes of his neighbors all the way to London and back. The story progresses as his supportive school counselor Siobhan (played by Khaki Hermann) becomes aware of the events through Christopher’s journal. It’s a kind of play-within-a-play as Siobhan reads about his discoveries and we see the narrative unfold through the many characters around them.
This play’s ensemble is entwined skillfully into the piece, worked into the scenes to represent how Christopher is feeling as they give a voice to his internal turmoil. They also become the other characters – Mr. and Mrs. Shears, Mrs. Alexander, policemen, train passengers, etc. They are staged so that their presence is intentional and poignant.
The multi-layered experience is more than just a search for answers – it is also a look into the mind of someone whose social skills are limited but whose mind is endlessly awake and powerful. Christopher learns about overcoming fear, navigating interpersonal relationships, plodding through family heartache, and about how lies can come from seemingly good intentions.
Although strongly acted and emotionally intriguing, it’s sometimes a challenge to listen past some of the inconsistent British accents. However, the cast does well with keeping the audience engaged with compelling staging and a beautiful presentation. Movement Coordinator Dusten Welch has done a wonderful job with the lovely flow of Roudebush’s stage direction.
Kimball is a solid actor, bringing the complex character of Christopher to life in a well-layered and thoughtful manner. Cranendonk skillfully plays Christopher’s father Ed with the right balance of troubled angst and compassionate authority. Hermann is a positive light as Siobhan, using an air of gentle encouragement with positive reinforcement to inspire those around her. Nanna Ingvarsson is a delight as Mrs. Masterson, providing wise counsel and needed levity to this fine mosaic of a “curious” production.
Interesting fact – the onstage rat and the surprise animal at the end (no spoilers here) are real!
The set, sound, lights, and projections are an integral part of the play. From tangible locations to the perceived inner thoughts of the mind, the technical aspects of CURIOUS successfully anchor the audience to the characters and the story.
Scenic Design – Cheri Prough-DeVol
Lighting Design – Andrew McDaniels
Projection Design – Joe Burke
Associate Production Design – Erin Pleake
Costume Design – Inda Blatch-Geib
Sound Design – Angie Hayes
Overall it is an interesting night out. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME plays at the Beck Center for the Arts through October 16, 2022. Tickets and Information are available at www.beckcenter.org.
Photos by Steve Wagner