BWW Review: CURIOUS INCIDENT at the Paramount β A Brilliant Gut Punch
A few years back I had the great fortune of seeing Simon Stephens' brilliant play, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" on Broadway. By intermission I was visibly shaken and by the end I was an emotional mess. But seeing it again last night for its current run at the Paramount Theatre, and having a little bit more familiarity and perspective on it I recognized one key thing. This show is easily not for everyone (an attitude I could not fathom when I first saw it). Personally, I was still affected but with its deliberate in your face staging and off-kilter central character I can see how it might be tough for some to connect to the piece while others will be blown away.
Adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon, we see things from the perspective of Christopher Boone (Adam Langdon the night I went but also played by Benjamin Wheelwright on alternate nights), a quite intelligent 15-year-old boy with difficulties dealing with the world at large due to some behavioral issues. Everything needs to be orderly and clear, he hates to be touched, and the only being he seems to connect with is his pet rat Toby. All of this makes life difficult for his Dad, Ed (Gene Gillette), a blue-collar kind of guy raising Christopher on his own following the death of his wife. Luckily there's Siobhan (Maria Elena Ramirez), Christopher's teacher, who can mostly keep Christopher on the calm and focused end of the spectrum. But when Christopher's neighbor's dog Wellington is killed with a garden fork and Christopher is blamed for the crime, he gets it into his head that he must be a detective and find out who really killed Wellington. This investigation leads Christopher down an unfamiliar road where he discovers elements of his life that have been kept from him.
Director Marianne Elliott took the genius tact of staging the entire show so the audience is forced to see the world the way Christopher does with intense lights, overlapping sounds, and stylized movement making the piece a fully immersive journey into an already emotional tale. And this is where we may lose some people. I find the world they've created fascinating and revel in the innovation of it all but it's not a comfortable show. This is certainly not a happy little jaunt where you can wander through the story, these folks make you work for it and even when you think you've finally got the rhythm of the show down they make a sharp left turn to throw you off again. But if you are up for the work, the payoff is immense.
Langdon tackles the role with laser focus, never once showing any crack in his character. This must be an exhausting exercise for any actor but Langdon keeps together a tight and well thought out character throughout. Gillette brings in a beautiful portrayal of a very loving yet frayed and damaged man barely holding on. Ramirez makes for a delightful narrator of sorts to the play and manages to calm the feeling in the theater the same time she calms Christopher. And I must mention FeliciTy Jones Latta who turns in some stunning moments as the memory of Christopher's Mother.
I can't help but want everyone to see this play. I want everyone to have the experience I did the first time. I recall gushing over it when I came back from New York and telling everyone they must see it when I saw the tour was coming here. But I can easily see how this won't be everyone's cup of tea. For me however, with my three-letter rating system, I still give "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" a shaken to the core WOW. But be prepared to put in the work for this one.
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" performs at the Paramount Theatre. For tickets or information contact Seattle Theatre Group online at www.stgpresents.org.