Thursday, April 28, 2016

Theater Review - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Written by Simon Stephens
Based on the novel by Mark Haddon
Directed by Marianne Elliott
Where: Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York, NY
When: Saturday, April 23, 8pm

Full disclosure -- At the end of the first act of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a pivotal plot point is revealed.  I misinterpreted this key plot point due to the improper hearing of a simple preposition earlier in the play (and the fact that the play jumped around a little bit back and forth in time at the beginning) and I felt like the biggest idiot for the remainder of the evening.  This may have led to me harboring a bit of ill will towards this otherwise intriguing Broadway production of a seemingly simplistic story about fifteen year-old Christopher who falls somewhere on the autism spectrum and his quest to uncover the mystery of who brutally killed his neighbor's dog one evening. The story is actually very basic (and, in the end, may have worked better as a 110-minute one act play has opposed to the two-act 150-minute piece it is), but the staging is what makes this play shine.
The set is stark - it's as if we're sitting in a black box theater whose walls are covered in shiny cubes with the corners of each cube containing a light.  These cubes may rise or fall depending on the scene, the lights may brighten or change colors, and, at times, the cubes may seem to disappear into the background as a variety of images are projected onto them.  The minimalistic approach may seem odd seeing as how the story is minimalistic as well, but the uniqueness of the set and its rather stylish ways of changing its appearance enhance the story greatly and rather astutely take us into the mind of the autistic Christopher who sees everything in a very binary way.  Kudos to set designer Bunny Christie, video designer Finn Ross, and lighting designer Paule Constable for creating a visually appealing experience.  Credit is also due to Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett - choreographers for the play.  While there's no "dancing" that we normally associate with choreography, there is exquisite movement on display that I couldn't help but find mesmerizing at times -- it was really fascinating stuff.
(Tyler Lea)

Kudos also to director Marianne Elliott for leading the charge in both the fantastic aforementioned design aspects as well as getting a powerful leading performance from young Tyler Lea making his Broadway debut as Christopher.  (It should be noted that Lea didn't originate the role on Broadway, so I'm unsure if Ms. Elliott actually has any role in shaping his personal's unknown to me if directors make return trips after the original cast goes away.)  Lea never once leaves the stage and he grippingly holds our attention throughout.  There's a strength to Christopher that we witness right away, but also an aching vulnerability.  When Lea cries out in fear and emotional pain after he is simply touched by another human being, we can't help but feel his discomfort and, presumably, his desire to maybe someday be able to accept the comforting touch of another rather than have his mind tell him that isolation is his friend.  Even from the second to last row in the mezzanine, Lea conveys this and more than captivates.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a unique experience and unlike anything I've really ever seen before.  While I didn't love it, I'm thrilled I jumped at the chance to see it because I doubt I'll see anything like it again.  Nice job all around to the folks both behind and on the stage of this Tony Award-winning play.

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