Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 29, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through January 1, 2017
by Jarice Hanson

Photo by Joan Marcus
Told from the perspective of Christopher, a 15-year old autistic boy, this play overwhelms the audience with heightened sensory overload. The touring company’s rendition of “Curious Incident” at the Bushnell is largely effective, even though the play most certainly works even more effectively in a slightly smaller theatre where the sound system is more evenly balanced. Still, the grid-like set, complete with video projection and LED lighting contributes to an evening that draws the audience into the story and makes you understand what life is like for an autistic individual who struggles with complex situations. 

Christopher becomes obsessed with trying to find out who killed his neighbor’s dog. As he begins his detective work, he learns a family truth that has been withheld from him, and he goes about seeking answers—a difficult path for a young man who doesn’t comprehend irony or metaphor. The role of Christopher is exceedingly physically and vocally demanding and for this company, performances are shared by Adam Langdon and Benjamin Wheelwright. On the evening I saw the show, Langdon embodied the role with dexterity and energy, though his voice is a bit too mature for a teen. I’ve seen this performer before, and Langdon is undoubtedly an actor to watch as his career develops. He’s aided in this production by a multi-racial ensemble of seasoned veterans. Gene Gillette as Christopher’s father is particularly effective as a parent who tries to do the right things for his special-needs son, only to find that good intentions sometimes backfire.

The Broadway production of the play received five Tony Awards in 2015 for Best Actor, Best Play, Best Director, Scenic Design, and Lighting Design. The success of the show is balanced with all of the components, though the actor playing Christopher has the greatest burden in terms of maintaining stamina and gaining sympathy from the audience. Based on the first-person book written Mark Haddon in 2003, the story gives the audience a sense of what it is like to live with autism, and we cheer when we find this truly original hero optimistic about his future and his ability to live in the complicated “typical” world.