Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME at CCAE Theatricals

Playing through March 3rd

By: Feb. 25, 2024
Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME at CCAE Theatricals
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When the neighbor’s dog is suddenly killed, Christopher, the highly intelligent teenager next door, decides to emulate Sherlock Holmes and investigate what happened in THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME.   The production is a visually and physically creative endeavor that effectively tells this story and the inner thoughts of the lead character who uniquely perceives the world. CCAE Theatrical brings the much-lauded adaption of the best-selling book to the stage through March 3rd. 

Christopher is fifteen years old, highly intelligent, and lives with his father Ed (Nathan Madden).  The play opens when Christopher wakes up in the idle of the night and finds that someone has killed his neighbor's dog Wellington (it’s a prop dog).  Christopher who has a very logical way of thinking, and finds unknowns to be particularly vexing, decides he must solve this mystery.

Christopher has, as the source novel of the same name by Mark Haddon describes “some behavioral difficulties.”  These manifest in processing the world along a neurotypical spectrum. He finds most of the world a mystery, from processing people’s emotions to taking in the sometimes overwhelming sensory input that are the lights, sounds, and other things in the world around him 

Christopher’s mother Judy (Regina A. Fernandez)  has passed away, but Christopher has a gentle and understanding teacher in Siobhan (Allison Spratt Pearce) who acts as both a translator for Christopher for navigating the world, and also as the narrator for the audience helping the audience better understand Christopher’s world.

Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME at CCAE Theatricals

While investigating this mystery, Christopher discovers information that presents additional challenges and mysteries of his personal life that need to be resolved.

Directed by J. Scott Lapp, this show takes great care to build a world in which the audience can experience how Christopher experiences everything. Not only does the audience watch the show being performed, but also in multiple perspectives including through the lens of a camera, simultaneously.

The set and video by Matthew Herman are open back into the wings of the theatre, allowing for an abundance of space to project the video feed, the projections by Blake McCarty, the lighting by Mike Billings, and for the entire cast to utilize the entire space. Because this scenic world is through Christopher’s logical lens, and he likes to know what everything is, everything is labeled, including exit doors with arrows, the loading dock, and more which is another effective design layer.

Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME at CCAE Theatricals

The inventive choreography by Natalie Iscovich creates physical moments that are beyond dance and become stylized immersive storytelling. This is accompanied by the sound design by Jon Fredette adds another layer to the way Christopher processes the roar of a train or the way the people, announcements, colors, and movement of a train station can create a cacophonous buzz. Original music by Maxwell Transue adds another layer of energy and emotion to the show.

The show is led by Daniel Patrick Russell is extraordinary in his physicality and ability to emote while also staying true to the character's more flat and matter-of-fact communication style. Stay for after the curtain call for an additional moment with Russell who after an entire show still has all the energy to energetically explain a math problem featured in the show - math has never been so entertaining.

Madden as Ed, Christopher's father, is a man who loves his son but circumstances and stress cause him to be brooding and stern.  Fernandez as the mother Judy, is sweet and loving, but flawed in how she copes with their family dynamic.  While Christopher finds the world overwhelming and sometimes incomprehensible to process, so do his parents in trying to effectively parent him through all of it.  They are all trying to understand each other, and even though it appears they are failing, they continue to push through.

The show is supported by an excellent and quick-changing cast, including Drew Bradford, Melissa Fernandes, Berto Fernández, Melissa Glasgow, Dallas McLaughlin, Tanner Vydos, and Leianna Weaver.

A few standouts include Berto, who is both an exasperated and short-tempered former neighbor and a delightful binocular-using neighbor.  Melissa likewise is the upset neighbor who lost her dog, to the headmistress of Christopher’s school, to the most sultry ATM you’ll ever hear.

One problem all of this amazing and creative spectacle does have is that it allows the audience to gloss over some of the more problematic parts of the story itself.  Since it is written mostly through Christopher’s perspective and his limited ability for empathy and emotions, some of the more disturbing actions or behaviors are glossed over and feel unresolved in a way that can feel a bit unsatisfying on balance to the rest of the show.  

Then again, there is also a live puppy, which is always an effective distraction from any pesky questions.

How to Get Tickets

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME by CCAE Theatricals is playing at the California Center for the Arts through March 3rd.  For ticket and showtime information go to www.theatreicals.org 

Photo Credit: Karli Cadel


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