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What makes theater so great is its ability to transport you to different worlds. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time opened on Wednesday night at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago and it successfully does just that, although where it transports you is not where you may have expected. Based on the bestselling novel written by Mark Haddon in 2013, this play is told from the perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy who is somewhere on the autistic spectrum and his teacher, the ever-compassionate Siobhan. Christopher lives with his father Ed, who has told him his mother died of a heart condition. One night, Christopher finds a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, dead having been stabbed with a garden fork and he quickly becomes a prime suspect. Adamant of his innocence, he plays detective to find the real murderer and unexpectedly ends up on an adventure full of surprises, shocks, and challenges. 

 

While his condition is never stated explicitly, it is implied that Christopher is somewhere on the autistic spectrum with savant qualities, especially in the areas of math and science. As the play unfolds the audience experiences the world through Christopher’s mind, realizing how his unique brain makes him an outsider in the world we so often take for granted. These differences are made, all the more evident through stunning visual effects, great use of sound and lighting and a creative approach to telling the story.

 

While the book is written solely in Christopher’s voice, the stage production plays with time and employs two points of view for narration, both Christopher’s and his teacher Siobhan. Christopher has been writing a story about his investigation into Wellington’s murder and that becomes a play within a play as we shift between Siobhan’s reading of the story during school time and Christopher telling it in real time. Christopher is played by Adam Langdon who provided a strong performance, although at times it felt a bit forced and ventured into overdone as he embodied a teen struggling with an exceptional brain and different take on the world. Siobhan, played by Maria Elena Ramirez, was excellent as was Gene Gillette as Ed (Christopher’s father). An ensemble cast rounds out the show playing a number of roles to bring the full story to life.

 

The staging of the show is quite unique, made up of a simple set with digital walls on the sides and back of the stage that boast different visual effects throughout the show, and a series of white rectangle blocks used as chairs, tables, benches, televisions and even a fish tank through creative lighting. Employing creative choreography by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, the actors themselves create movements on stage that transport the audience through the various scenes from outer space to a crowded London Tube station. Coupled with the lighting, sounds and an ever-evolving play train set, the simple set design feels energetic and lively throughout the show.

 

Overall, this play moves along well throwing in some surprises along the way and with brilliant staging it constantly amazes the audience. While there were moments that felt over acted, on the whole it was a strong all-around performance. There is some strong language used and some more mature topics so keep in mind it may not be family friendly for younger children. It is a show that while it entertains, it will also challenge you to think about those among us who experience the world so differently due to their unique brains.  Get your tickets to experience the show for your self, running through December 24th at the Oriental Theater.  

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

 

 

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