BWW Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, Raleigh Little Theatre
"THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME," Raleigh Little Theatre's latest show, is the first local production of the much-acclaimed play. Directed by RLT Artistic Director Patrick Torres, the production explores the mind of a brilliant young man and the effects that the crumbling of his parents' relationship has had upon his life.
It follows fifteen-year-old Christopher, who has an autism spectrum condition and is very gifted at math. After he is found alongside his neighbor's dead dog and questioned by the police, he decides to discover who killed the animal himself. But he isn't ready for the truths that he will discover about his parents' relationship and his own abilities. There are a handful of scenes in the play including domestic violence, so it may not be suitable for younger audiences.
The play is written by Simon Stephens and based on the 2003 novel by Mark Haddon. It premiered at The National Theatre in London in 2012 and went on to win the 2013 Olivier Award for Best New Play. It transferred to Broadway, where it won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2015.
The performances in the show are great from the whole cast. The show is set in England and most of the cast do a decent job with their accents. Rebecca Blum portrays Judy, Christopher's mother, and perfectly nails her desperation while still staying grounded in reality. Samantha Corey is a lovely, calming presence as Christopher's mentor at school, Siobhan. She also does the best accent work of the whole cast. She perfectly portrays a woman who is trying to help her young student as much as possible, foster his creativity, but also ensure that his home life is stable.
The show has a strong ensemble who each play multiple smaller characters. Lucinda Danner Gainey is great as Mrs. Alexander, a woman on Christopher's street who attempts to befriend him. George Labusohr makes Roger Shears' annoying qualities clear from the first moment the character appears, subtly at first and growing throughout his scenes. Benji Jones is great as the distraught neighbor Mrs. Shears, but also hilarious as the cash machine in the train station (you have to see it to understand how great it is).
But the show has a clear star and it's local high-school student Michael Larson who plays Christopher. Michael, like his character, has an autism spectrum condition and it's clear that his portrayal of Christopher is not built on clichés, as it easily could be, but a deep understanding of the character. He's a talented young actor who is able to keep the audience totally engaged in Christopher's journey.
The show is impeccably designed as well as having great acting. The projection work by Darby Madewell is great, as is the scenic design by Sonya Drum. The set is fascinating with its multiple levels, hanging books, and train set on the back wall. The intimacy of the Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre is well-suited to this very internal and personal show.
The show tackles some difficult topics, including what life is like for someone with an autism spectrum condition. It is a thoughtful and non-exploitative portrayal and Torres and the cast worked with Maggie Zoller, a Clinical Professional with the Autism Spectrum Society of North Carolina, to help ensure it is appropriate and truthful. It's important to increase representation on stage of groups that may not normally see themselves and this show is a great example.
The show has sold so well that it has extended its run to February 8. On February 9, RLT are hosting a sensory-friendly performance of the show; while this is their sixth production to have a sensory-friendly performance, it is their first aimed at adults. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" is well-worth your time, if you can get a ticket.
Photo Credit: Cindy McEnery