Review: ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ at The Kennedy Center

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The national tour of the critically-acclaimed, five-time Tony Award-winning production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time made its sojourn to The Kennedy Center’s Opera House this past week, igniting the stage with an alluring plethora of multi-dimensional visuals, sounds, and movement.

Adam Langdon, foreground, with Maria Elena Ramirez and Gene Gillette. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Adam Langdon, foreground, with Maria Elena Ramirez, and Gene Gillette. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Based on Playwright Simon Stephens’ adaption from Mark Haddon’s internationally, best-selling novel and directed by Tony Award winner Marianne Elliott (who also co-directed War Horse), the narrative centers around an English teen, Christopher (meticulously rendered by Adam Langdon and played on certain performances by Benjamin Wheelwright), who after coming under suspicion for the death of his neighbor’s dog, embarks on a personal mission to find its killer, which leads to transformational discoveries and self-evolution.

Niftily set inside a colossal cube lined with graph paper by scenic and Costume Designer Bunny Christie, heightened with innovative video projections designed by Finn Ross and sporadic swirling lights from Paule Constable, the geometric-styled stage amplifies the uniquely wondrous inner workings of Christopher’s enigmatic mind.

Langdon does a marvelous job portraying Christopher, a quirky 15-year-old math genius who hates the color yellow, being touched and speaking to strangers, with balanced sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Although it is never explicitly addressed, his behavioral idiosyncrasies seem to stem somewhere on the autism spectrum, often garnering a wide range of reactions from laughter (when he bluntly asks his neighbors if they killed the dog) to heartache (when he curls up into ball, covering his eyes and ears, to block out the sensory overload of the world).

As in the Tony Award-winning War Horse, the play incorporates imaginatively-precise, choreographed progressions (by Scott Graham and Stephen Hoggett for Frantic Assembly) with pioneering projections and sophisticatedly blended music (Adrian Sutton) and sounds (Ian Dickinson for Autograph) to create its own technical dance  This was particularly underscored whenever Christopher endeavored in a train journey with the notion of speed and danger conveyed by the movement-scape and inventive physicality of the ensemble.

Under Elliott’s nimble direction, each of the 12-member cast, whether a teacher, Londoner, or neighbor, worked cohesively to seamlessly delve into their respectively shifting roles with aplomb. In this regard, Gene Gillette is notably convincing as Ed, a complicated single father whose patience has been unraveled by the challenge of raising a son who is difficult and different and “sees everything” (as Christopher has proclaimed). Correspondingly, Felicity Jones Latta is memorable as Christopher’s wayward absent mother, seemingly conflicted by her relationship with a teenage boy who finds solace in reciting sequences of prime numbers.

Adam Langdon and Company. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Adam Langdon and Company. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Brilliantly imaginative and whimsically abstract, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an out-of-the-ordinary production that broadens theatrical perspectives and traditional thinking to limitless proportions and possibilities.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays through October 23, 2016 at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, in Washington, DC.  For tickets, call (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online.

LINK:
Review #2: ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ by John Stoltenberg.

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1 COMMENT

  1. While it’s not completely inaccurate to describe Christopher Boone’s “behavioral idiosyncrasies seem to stem somewhere on the autism spectrum”, such a description does not do justice to the disingenuous way National Theatre approaches the disability.

    In 2009 Haddon admitted to doing no research when writing his book and even claimed that “curious incident is not a book about asperger’s” [goo.gl/nYpRgJ]. Ros Hayes of the National Theater says that since Boone never specifies the name of his condition, any possible interpretation the audience has of the character is valid (goo.gl/1cSov6). This position allows the company to profit from the public’s interest in autism without taking responsibility for how they represent the condition.

    This story is widely hated by real autistics for perpetuating some of the most stigmatising stereotypes about autism – Boone is violent, unempathic and his condition causes his parents to separate. These are the myths that fuel school bullying, employment discrimination and darker forms of abuse.

    If you wish to see more autistic responses to Curious Incident, I’ve got some here goo.gl/Hx3Byw.

    Anyone interested in autism would be well-advised to avoid this play. You should read things written by actual autistics, I recommend this wonderful list from Emma’s Hope Book (goo.gl/ZNJMrn).

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