BWW Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME at Wichita Community Theatre
Located at 258 N. Fountain in College Hill, you'll discover the city's oldest running theatre, Wichita Community Theatre. For nearly seventy years, this jewel of a space has seen many local actors. From Wichita State Alums, to broadcast journalists, most actors in town have graced the stage here. If walls could truly talk, we would all be blessed with the history from this former, charming, and neighborly church turned theatre venue.
Now, midway through into its present season, Wichita Community Theatre's current production is appropriately titled The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, written by Simon Stephens and based on the novel by Mark Haddon. The story follows the narration of Christopher John Francis Boone, a fifteen-year-old boy played by up and coming fifteen-year-old actor, Leo Larson. The dog of Christopher's neighbor has been murdered, and being taken under suspicion, Christopher decides to investigate and find out just exactly who killed the dog named Wellington. Along the way, Christopher discovers hidden truths about his own neighbors, family and ultimately himself. Throughout the play, the audience assumes that Christopher has Asperger's syndrome, a type of autism, appropriately acted here by Larson so much so that you begin to feel sorry for his condition and the situations he experiences by people that tend to take advantage of him, including his own father, played by Bryan Welsby. Welsby, a local favorite among the theatre community, does an excellent job of portraying an abusive and alcoholic patriarch to the boy, keeping secrets hidden from Christopher about the disappearance of his mother. Chelsea Lee, a mother in real life to young teenage boys, represents Christopher's lost mother through moving monologues, often delivered stage right. Rounding out the cast are Vonda Schuster as Siobhan, a narrator-type role that progresses the story leading up to Christopher's A-Level math exams, followed by a Greek chorus of performers-Lindsay Unruh, Mark Schuster, John Lloyd Stafford III, Hagan Simmons, and Madison Anderson. Crystal Meek, playing Mrs. Alexander, reveals a family secret to the boy in an appropriate delivery that sets him on a new adventure. The show is well acted by the cast of ten.
Directed by Mark Anderson and Molly Tully, the pacing of the show is top-notch along with the set design, also built by Mark Anderson, which is constantly used and manipulated like a puzzle or Rubik's cube to create sensible steps, tables, or storage. Madeleine White choreographed fitting movement to further captivate the audience. It is the projections, however, that truly enhance and tie everything together. Created by WSU Professor Ed Baker, the images appearing on an all-white set immerse you in a whole new dimension. My only complaint about the effort is perhaps the set could have been an off-white beige color in tone, as to be not too harsh to the audience's eye, particularly when bright Fresnel lights illuminated the stage. Still, this show will have you feeling optimistic about the future and the possibilities that you can be whatever you want to be. Plus, you may want to stay a few minutes after the conclusion of the show for an additional surprise.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs in its final week January 30th through February 3rd. Ticket reservations can be made by calling 316-686-1282.