BWW Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME at Indiana Repertory Theatre
The Indiana Repertory Theatre opened its season with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It's a murder mystery, but not in the traditional sense. The murdered party is a dog and the "detective" is a teenage boy named Christopher, whose developmental disabilities allow him to see the world through a unique lens. The show is at once emotionally exhausting and energetic. There's humor strategically placed in almost every scene to help break the tension.
Mickey Rowe is acrobatic as Christopher. He is the first autistic actor to tackle the role in an American production. Though that's an accomplishment in its own right, he's also spot on in his portrayal. His ticks, his conversations, his immediate strong reactions when anything in his world deviates from its comfortable patterns, all of these things give the audience an accurate look at the world of one person with a developmental disability.
As much as this is clearly Christopher's story, the roles of his mother and father, deftly played by Constance Macy and Robert Neal, provide much of the play's heart. They know their son can only connect to them in specific ways, but that doesn't make it any easier when you just want a tiny sign of affection. Their restraint in moments of passion are heartbreaking. It's easy to see the strain they've been under and the deep love they have for their son.
In adapting the novel into a play, one strange decision was to break the fourth wall in the second act. It was an unnecessary choice that takes the audience out of Christopher's carefully-constructed world. The modern set includes a multi-media screen which flashes with numbers and lights to helps the audience see Christopher's train of thought. It's cleverly turned into a train in one scene, seamlessly giving the illusion of movement with only a few adjustments to the set. There are moments that are intentionally sensory overload, a crucial part of understanding what Christopher is going through.
In the end, the show does what the best productions aim to do. It allows the audience to see the world through another person's eyes. It opens a door into a completely different point of view, shedding light on individuals that are often overlooked. The play provides the opportunity to pause and think about the challenges others face and the ways we might be able to show more compassion in our everyday lives.