“People confuse me.” This line, spoken by the main character in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, might be my favorite line in The National Theatre Production, based on the award winning 2003 book by Mark Haddon. Christopher is a fifteen-year-old boy with autism. He tells the entire story himself, with help from his teacher, Siobhan. On the way, the audience is taken into the world of life with autism.
Gene Gillette as Ed and Adam Langdon as Christopher Boone in the touring production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Photo: Joan Marcus.
We meet Christopher, played by the amazingly intuitive Adam Langdon, as he has discovered his neighbor’s dog has been killed. It is almost immediately obvious that Christopher is different from most young people his age. He is suspected of killing the dog himself, but denies it. Christopher then makes it a goal to find out who killed Wellington the dog, despite his issues with strangers and new situations. His journey leads him to an even larger mystery and Christopher pushing his boundaries of comfort more than he ever has.
The things that make this show so special are nearly too numerous to name. When you walk into the theatre, the first thing you notice is the simplicity of the stage. I wondered what was going to come from what looked like such a simple set. Throughout the show, I was proven wrong on that assumption. Between some amazing scenic design from Bunny Christine, and magnificent lighting and video design by Paule Constable and Finn Ross, respectively, you are transported to Christopher’s world. It appears black and white and suddenly you are thrust into sound and light and images that can seem people with autism see the world.
To help thrust the audience into Christopher’s world, Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett have choreographed the chaos. In many ways, I see the fingerprints of Hoggett’s previous works (like Once and American Idiot), and while I don’t know Graham’s work, I can’t discount him either. It takes a special kind of talent to choreograph the chaos to represent the world through the eyes of someone with autism, and as far as I can tell, it was done spectacularly. I suppose you would need someone with autism to confirm my opinions.
The cast really does make this show even better. I would normally pick my most notable main characters to discuss, but in this case, every individual makes their mark. Adam Langdon bring Christopher to life with all the awkwardness, ticks, and honesty that I’ve experience with people living with autism. Maria Elena Ramirez makes Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher, one of the most likeable characters in the play. Siobhan seems to be the only person who truly understands Christopher, and Ramirez emanates that from the stage.
Gene Gillette and Felicity Jones Latta show the pitfalls of parents Ed & Judy in such an honest way that you can’t help but feel empathy toward them, even when you want to yell at them. But like most parents, Ed and Judy only do the best they can at any given moment, and seeing what parents with special needs children live though is eye opening in more ways than one.
I can’t imagine a way to truly sum up this show. You won’t look at the world the same way any longer, if you see it. It is emotionally intense on so many levels. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s beautiful. And much like life, there is beauty in the chaos.
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays at Tennessee Performing Arts Center through April 30th. You have five more chances to see this gorgeous production. According to their website, there are rush tickets (check out their Instagram or Facebook). You can also purchase tickets by clicking HERE, or by calling 615-785-4040. Don’t miss your chance to see this one. It is well worth your time and the money.
**Full disclosure: I did not pay for my ticket to this show. I went as a plus-one with a friend who had press comps for opening night. This did not affect my review in any way. This is a spectacular show. GO SEE IT!