Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 14, 2022

REVIEW: Exit 7 Players, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Exit 7 Players, Ludlow, MA
through March 20, 2022
by Jarice Hanson

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time originated in London’s West End in 2012 and came to Broadway two years later, winning multiple Tony Awards and the “Best Play” award in 2015. The show is based on the novel by Mark Haddon and adapted by Simon Stephens, and tells the story of Christopher, a neurodivergent 15-year-old, who stumbles upon a neighbor’s murdered dog and writes about the experience of trying to find the murderer. In the process, he negotiates his first foray into the sensory-stimulating world of dealing with police who initially think he killed the dog, to negotiating train travel to find his mother, and dealing with people whom he can’t and won’t trust. 

The play gives the audience an insight into the mind of a young man coming of age who is on the Autism Spectrum. Without ever specifying Christopher’s condition, the staging of the play itself brings us into the mind of a person for whom sensory overload is a matter of daily life. It’s a play so well written and so sensitively structured, it would be rare for a community theater to successfully tackle the subject. Fortunately, in the hands of director Michael O. Budnick and a cast of hard-working actors, Exit 7’s production hits the mark. 

Young Lucas Gonsalves very ably portrays Christopher, the sparkplug who drives the show. Gonsalves has fine stage presence, a believable British accent, and the physical stamina to sustain the energy of the show. Make no mistake—this is a very taxing role, and Gonsalves commits to it fully. He demonstrates a range that allows him to moderate his performance between moments of frenzy and a controlled collapse when external forces require the character to completely shut down in withdrawal.    

Jason Rose-Langston very effectively portrays Christopher's father as he deals with his son’s gifts and limitations, while still making you believe he deeply loves his son and struggles to understand him. Equally up to the challenge of the role is Gilana Chelimsky who portrays Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher, who adds an effective measure of control to the events that draw young Christopher into the functioning world while she recognizes his very special talent for math and systematic information processing. Also of note is Jami Wilson's performance in the pivotal role of Christopher's mother.

Much of the show depends on helping the audience experience the sensory overload that drives Christopher’s boundless energy.  The set constructed by Michael O. Budnick, Frank Croke, and Bruce Torrey is a masterpiece of projections, light, and sound that defies the limitations of the space and gives attention to the ensemble of Nancy Wright, Jeffrey Flood, Andy Price, Dan Jarvis, Hannah Zaitz, and Teresa Allie, all of whom play multiple roles, and who hit their marks with precision, timing, and control.   

Kudos to Exit 7 Players who recognized the importance of this very unique story and who so effectively take the audience into the mind of a young man who is considered “different.” In their telling of the story, they reach into our hearts and minds to show the beauty in love that cuts through all of our differences.