Curious Incident masterfully translates autism sprectrum disorder for the stage
At TPAC this week we take a departure from the usual musical for a play. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is now at Jackson Hall through Sunday. It was the Tony Award winner for Best Play in 2015 and took a record 7 Olivier Awards in its original home in Britain. Based on the mystery novel written by Mark Haddon, it's an intense show that explores the mind of an autistic teenager trying to navigate all that is growing up in a broken family.
The premise of the show centers around Christopher Boone, a 15 year old with an autism spectrum condition. He lives with his father who told him a couple of years ago that his mother died of a heart condition. The show begins with him finding the neighbors dog stabbed with a garden pitch fork. That leads him on an investigation, eventually finding out that his trust in his father is severely damaged.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a stark, sobering look into how people with autism live. The way they react to sensory changes, how that can change their mood instantly, the way they react socially... this play touches on every piece of that. It truly puts you in someone else's shoes from the very first second until the last. It uses flash, loud sounds, and other bursts that are a way of life for those with autism.
The show is performed on a very strange stage. It's set up as a grid with lights. It has hidden compartments that store all kinds of props. The stage is as much of the show as the actors playing their roles. It holds so many surprises, at several points my mouth fell open. It's as incredible technically as it is physically.
The cast is incredible. Since it is a British show, it includes the pleasant elderly British woman that everyone always adores. Played by Amelia White, she brings the character of Mrs. Alexander to life. The actors are usually on stage playing ensemble roles as well, but she is one my eye stayed on all night.
Adam Langdon plays Christopher, the story's protagonist. His masterful execution of this role shows that he can do any role he wants to do. A 2015 graduate of Juilliard's Drama division, he is someone who could easily be a very big deal very soon. If he won a Tony Award before the end of the decade, it would truly be no surprise. He is definitely one to watch.
This production will move you. The empathy that it wells up inside the theatergoer is good for your soul. Plus, if you've ever been touched by someone with an autism spectrum disorder, you will relate and find comfort in this show. The crack team of a cast paired with an insanely cool stage makes this a show you do not want to miss. And whatever you do, don't leave until the math problem is solved.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is playing now at TPAC's Andrew Jackson Hall through Sunday April 30. Tickets are available online.