BWW REVIEW: CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME Shines in Boston
The National Theatre production written by Simon Stephens based on the novel by Mark Haddon; directed by Marianne Elliott; scenic and costume design, Bunny Christie; lighting design, Paule Constable; video design, Finn Ross; choreography, Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett; music, Adrian Sutton; sound design, Ian Dickinson; hair design, David BrIan Brown
Cast in Order of Appearance:
Christopher Boone, Adam Langdon (Benjamin Wheelwright on Thursday and Sunday evenings and Saturday matinees); Mrs. Shears and others, Charlotte Maier; Siobhan and ensemble, Maria Elena Ramirez; Mr. Thompson and others, Brian Robert Burns; Roger Shears and others, John Hemphill; Ed and ensemble, Gene Gillette; Reverend Peters and others, Geoffrey Wade; No. 37 and others, Francesca Choy-Kee; Mrs. Alexander and others, Amelia White; Judy and ensemble, FeliciTy Jones Latta; ensemble, Robyn Kerr, J. Paul Nicholas
Performances and Tickets:
Now through March 19, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston; tickets start at $44 and are available through Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787, online at www.BroadwayInBoston.com or at the Box Office Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
The ingenious stage adaptation of Mark Haddon's popular mystery novel THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME invites the audience into the challenging world of 15-year-old Christopher Boone (Adam Langdon on opening night) whose exceptional brain is trapped inside an emotionally stunted body. Through the heightened use of sights, sounds, and technically stylized staging, this Tony Award-winning play creates a world of frightening sensory overload that enables the viewer to empathize viscerally with a boy who can't empathize with others.
Christopher is a mathematical savant who takes everything quite literally. He sees metaphors as lies and cannot understand the subtleties of human emotion. He is terrified of being touched, and when stressed by even the slightest added outside stimuli he recites every prime number in sequence from 1 to 7057. Christopher lives with his father, Ed (Gene Gillette), and attends a special day school where his teacher and counselor, Siobhan (Maria Elena Ramirez), is the closest thing he has to a friend. When he is found in the yard one night with the corpse of a neighbor's dog that has been murdered with a garden fork, he is immediately accused. Christopher insists he is innocent ("I cannot lie," he states emphatically), and to prove it he sets out to solve the mystery of who killed poor Wellington.
Christopher's quest takes him first to the owner Mrs. Shears (Charlotte Maier), then to a kindly older neighbor Mrs. Alexander (Amelia White), and finally to every house on his block, represented simply by large illuminated numbers and lighted outlines of walls and eaves. He approaches his sleuthing as if it were a math problem, applying "If A Then B" logic. What Christopher can't account for is the X factor of human impulse, however, so his initial solution is faulty. When he ultimately discovers the truth, he is terrified by it and runs away to London.
On his journey, accompanied only by his pet rat Toby, he must navigate the bustling city streets and subways. Flashing signs and public address announcements confuse and overwhelm him. Crowds of passersby end up carrying him in the opposite direction. The noise and strobe effect of an oncoming tRain Quite literally freeze him in his tracks. Only with the help of kind strangers does he finally make it to his destination.
Tony Award-winning director Marianne Elliott, who also brought us the brilliant War Horse from the National Theatre in London, has staged THE CURIOUS INCIDENT as if it were lifted directly from the source book's pages. Christopher's stilted words become skeletal projections, illustrating only what dominates his focus at any given moment. Peripheral characters, such as neighbors, school personnel or clergy, are drawn two-dimensionally, suggesting Christopher's limited understanding of depth or nuance. Even the people closest to him are defined by his viewpoint: his father frequently seems tired and angry; his teacher seems perpetually warm and caring.
To the cast's great credit, they are all able somehow to reveal their characters' underlying complexities to the audience while emphasizing Christopher's narrow image of them on the surface. Gillette lets Ed's deep love and compassion for his son seep through his brawny frustration, simultaneously reaching out and holding back from touching him whenever he tries to console him. Ramirez shows with warmth and respectful restraint that Siobhan is obviously appreciative of Christopher's intellectual gifts and utter guilelessness, but she is also keenly aware that he will never know joy the way others do. Even White as the amiable Mrs. Alexander mixes dottiness with genuine compassion for a boy she obviously likes but does not understand.
In the end, though, the yeoman's work is carried out by young Langdon, a recent Julliard grad, as Christopher. In between fits of fear and rage he must strike a balance between mathematical genius and emotional naïveté. He must also engage an audience in caring for his plight while demonstrating no visible signs of caring for others. Langdon navigates this delicate path with great dexterity. He finds a way into our hearts through a straightforwardness that can be quite humorous - and then through a sudden attack of overwhelming anxiety that draws us straight into the heart of his tumultuous world.
Langdon also physically maneuvers around the set almost non-stop in a strenuous exercise of drawing on the floor with chalk, making graphs and stick-figures that are then projected on the walls to magnify and illustrate his thoughts. His body movements, too, are constant, the result of his struggles to maintain a safe distance between himself and others around him. When he is in travel mode, he walks in a complex formulaic pattern that keeps him from getting lost. Clearly nothing is easy for Christopher, and Langdon manages to show every ounce of his character's strain.
Sets, lights, sounds, video projections and even choreography combine to become a crucial element of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT's storytelling. Together they represent the heightened way in which Christopher experiences the world. They also invite the audience to enter his peculiarly structured matrix - and to walk a mile in his shoes.
PHOTOS BY Joan Marcus: Adam Langdon as Christopher Boone and the Company of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME; Adam Langdon; Maria Elena Ramirez as Siobhan, Gene Gillette as Ed, and Adam Langdon; Adam Langdon and Company; Gene Gillette and Adam Langdon; Adam Langdon and Maria Elena Ramirez; Adam Langdon and Company