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BWW Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME at SHEA'S 710 Theatre

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A BRILLIANT MIND AND PERFORMANCE

BWW Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME at SHEA'S 710 Theatre

After 20 months of sitting on a darkened stage at Shea's 710 Theatre, All For One Theatre Productions dusted off the set that has sat idle for the brilliant production of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME. The production closed on opening night in March 2020, never being able to be seen by a paying audience due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Now with a vaccinated and masked audience, the abundance of talent that went into making this production can now be seen. It was definitely worth the wait.

The 2003 novel of the same name by Mark Haddon achieved great success and deals with the topic of autism, even though it is never labeled as such. The autistic spectrum has come to the forefront of medicine and public awareness in recent years, thanks to better and earlier diagnosis in children. Simon Stephens has adapted this novel for the stage. It tells the story of Christopher, a teenager with autism who finds his neighbors dog killed by a pitch fork. The police are called, Christopher adamantly denies he was the murderer (he proudly states he always tells the truth), and sets out to solve the case himself. His family life unravels for a myriad of unrelated reasons and his fascinating journey unfolds.

Christopher is a brilliant, high functioning character, academically head and shoulders among his peers. His mind thinks mathematically, and when trouble ensues, he begins rattling prime numbers to calm himself down. But as with other children on the spectrum, interpersonal relationships are difficult, a mere touch on the shoulder is a lightning bolt of pain and the only glint of physical affection he can tolerate is the gentle touching of fingertips with his parents.

Samuel Fesmire as Christopher turns in a nuanced and captivating performance that belies his young age. From the outset, there is never a doubt that Christopher is different, and Fesmire embodies the teenager who fights with societal norms because of his condition. Whether it be his monotone deadpan delivery, repetitive pulling at his clothing, or rocking to self soothe in time of crisis, Fesmire never gives any hint of acting, but rather becomes Christopher. You root for him, embrace his frank honesty and laugh at his idiosyncrasies. At the same time, his behaviors are often cringe-worthy and you wonder how this brilliant mind can function in the real world. Mr Fesmire has done his research and it shows.

Director David Oliver has created a theatrical piece that is always engaging and fascinating to watch. Through brilliant projections by Christopher Ash, the audience is allowed to jump into the complex mind of Christopher. His concrete thinking becomes visible imagery on the multiple projection screens that form the backdrop of the stage. And Stephen's script has Christopher writing a book that details his story. His teacher Siobhan ( Sara Kow- Falcone) often reads from his manuscript, giving us further entry into Christopher's deepest thoughts. Ms. Kow-Falcone does a great job as the narrator and Christopher's confidante and advisor.

The large ensemble of players has been cast with great thought, with many actors playing multiple characters. Anthony Alcocer once again shines as Christopher's father, Ed. This is a working class man who does his able best to understand, and sometimes just cope with his special needs son. Alcocer grapples with the role with requisite tension and compassion, never lending any doubt that he truly loves his son. The mother Judy is played by Candice Kogut. This is a thankless role, as a mom who deserts her family, and Kogut does fine work as the caring protective mother.

David Marciniak finds great humor in his many parts, especially as Rev. Peters. Wendy Hall also lands some good laughs as one of the school teachers .Local favorite Pamela Rose Mangus is a great character actress in this play, lighting up each scene she is in. Jake Hayes plays a few policemen, each with their own personality and accent.

Ben Michael Moran is delightfully evil as Roger, the villain of the story. And Priscilla Young-Anker is convincing as the elderly neighbor who befriends Christopher and tips him off on how to solve his crime story.

The vast stage at the former Studio Arena has been filled by a great set and lighting design by Lynne Koscielniak. Moveable platforms, gliding staircases and modular units provide an endless possibilities of playing areas, all the time being lit with creative evocative lighting. Starry nights allow Christopher to fly and escape the world, while showers of confetti envelop him.

ALL FOR ONE THEATRE PRODUCTIONS include Buffalo's best theatre companies... Irish Classical Theatre, MusicalFare, Road Less Traveled Productions, Shea's 710 Theatre and Theatre of Youth. This play is the second venture for the group, after THE THREE MUSKETEERS, which had a multi talented cast but a weak, wandering script. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT is the perfect play for the myriad of the talent that this group can supply. The story is gripping and appeals to multiple ages. It can be told with endless options of creativity, and this production shows how much talent Western New York has, in all aspects of theatre.

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME plays at Shea's 710 Theatre through November 14, 2021. Contact sheas.org for more information and tickets.

About the reviewer...

Michael Rabice has been a Contributing Editor for Broadwayworld since 2014. In addition has been a practicing Pediatrician for 25 years.

Michael has over 40 years of experience attending plays, musicals and opera all over the world. He is a frequent performer in opera and has appeared with the Glimmerglass Opera, Artpark Opera, Greater Buffalo Opera and Nickel City Opera. Michael has extensively studied the history of the American musical theatre throughout the past century. In addition, he has written many essays on the impact of musical theatre on American culture, as well as how musical styles of a specific era impacted the Broadway stage and it's orchestrations. He regularly attends theatre in Buffalo, Toronto , Niagara-on-the-Lake, and New York City.


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