Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
National Tour
Review by Garrett Southerland


Adam Langdon and Cast
Photo by Joan Marcus
Before the performance even begins, the audience is struck by a radiant stage, in the center of which lies a lifeless dog with a garden fork sticking out of it. It is a disturbing image, and particularly disturbing to the protagonist we'll soon meet in this touring production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time, playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center through February 26th. Based on Mark Haddon's novel by the same name, the story focuses on Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy with significant challenges, and his investigation of the death of a neighbor's dog. The play won Tony Awards in 2015 for Best Play, Direction, Lighting Design, Scenic Design, and Actor.

Christopher, a standout performance by Adam Langdon, enjoys detective stories and sees this death as an opportunity to play Sherlock Holmes. He begins a diary of his investigation, which his teacher, Siobhan, affectionately portrayed by Maria Elena Ramirez, reads aloud. Christopher's search and his questioning of the neighbors draws attention to him, and soon he is a suspect, but not everyone is sensitive to his experience of the world, and he struggles to maintain his sense of control. Christopher is unable to move on until this mystery is solved, and he finally comes to a conclusion that neither he nor anyone expects.

The choreography by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett from Frantic Assembly makes full use of the ensemble cast, who even serve as parts of the set, from doors to refrigerators. The minimal set, by Bunny Christie, allows the video projections (Finn Ross) and lighting (Paul Constable) to take over, creating a map into Christopher's mind, dramatizing both mood and suspense, especially in a subway sequence as Christopher battles the seemingly eternal maze alone. Strobe lights are used to blind and confuse. Music and sound, designed by Ian Dickinson, are exceptionally loud, obscuring voices on the stage. Though the sound design is used to great effect, some may find it excessive; at times it completely overwhelms the speech of the actors.

Playwright Simon Stephens has done well in adapting an unusual book to the stage, allowing for honesty, fear, and even humor to resonate throughout. Director Marianne Elliott has created yet another immersive world, following her previous Tony-winning play War Horse. There has been some push-back in the community about the authenticity of this production's presentation of people with distinct challenges, but the distorted, surreal, and overwhelming impressions it makes definitely encourage the audience to consider the differences in the way we perceive the world.

Though the entire ensemble does a fine job, the standout by far is Adam Langdon's portrayal of Christopher and his distinctive mannerisms and speech. Gene Gillette and Felicity Jones Latta, as Ed and Judy, fully embody parents who have learned how to deal with their child's challenges and how to reach him on his terms. It is in the father's character that we see the best representation of both the compassion and the frustration.

Near the end of the play, after all his adventures and accomplishments, Christopher asks Siobhan, “Does this mean I can do anything?” She does not offer an answer, only a loving gaze. We, too, must answer for ourselves and discover what we—and anyone, regardless of physical, emotional, and mental capabilities—can do.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time is presented by SunTrust Broadway, Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St. Durham, NC 27701 through February 26th, 2017. Tickets can be purchased online at www.DPACnc.com, www.ticketmaster.com, or the Ticket Center at DPAC in person or by phone at 919-680-2787. For more information on the tour, visit www.curiousonbroadway.com.

Playwright: Simon Stephens
Author: Mark Haddon
Director: Marianne Elliott
Scenic and Costume Design: Bunny Christie
Lighting Design: Paule Constable
Video Designer: Finn Ross
Choreography: Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly
Music: Adrian Sutton
Sound Design: Ian Dickinson

Cast:
Christopher: Adam Langdon
Christopher at Certain Performances: Benjamin Wheelwright
Siobhan: Maria Elena Ramirez
Ed: Gene Gillette
Judy: Felicity Jones Latta
Mrs. Alexander: Amelia White
Ensemble: Charlotte Maier, John Hemphill, Brian Robert Burns, Francesca Choy-Lee, Geoffrey Wade, Josephine Hall, Robyn Kerr, Tim McKiernan, J. Paul Nicholas, Tim Wright


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