Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Vortex Theatre
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Rob's review of A Doll's House, Part 2

Image Courtesy of the Vortex Theatre
Just a few years ago, the 2003 British novel by Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was the most-read novel in England. Not bad for a first novel. The story is told from the point of view of Christopher, a teenager who is struggling to make sense of his life. And his life is particularly crazy. While Haddon has pointedly resisted naming the condition that marks Christopher's behavior, it's clearly in the world of special needs.

Christopher is perplexed by his small world of school, neighbors, Dad, and his pet rat. The story kicks off when he finds the neighbor's dog dead with a garden fork sticking out. Christopher is determined to discover who killed the dog. The story follows Christopher's wild ride as he searches for the dog killer. He runs into clashes with his father, who demands he cease this sleuthing. The conflict sends Christopher onto a confusing course that forces him to break out of his tiny world and grow.

The novel was turned into a play by Simon Stephens that debuted in London in 2012 and opened on Broadway in 2014. The script is surprisingly true to the novel and brings to life the point-of-view character, Christopher (Thomas Yegerlehner), in a way that is impossible in a novel. We get to see a wide range of Christopher's behavioral challenges that simply can't be captured in words.

Christopher comes to the story with gifts and encumbrances. He is near-genius with math, yet he's a basket case with social interaction. His relationship with his father, his neighbors, and his school are all strained. He is guided through his confusion by Siobhan (Holly Deuel Gilster), a school counselor who compassionately helps him manage his limitations and strengths. Sometimes she appears in Christopher's life and sometimes she's a voice in his head. Stephens deftly balances these two aspects of Siobhan.

The script is a lovely depiction of the book, but what stands out above all else in this production is the performance by Yegerlehner as Christopher. It's breathtaking. Through the two-hour play, Yegerlehner stays consistently in the strange world of Christopher, a feat that is both emotional and physical. What makes this play tick is Christopher's growth as he faces unexpected twists and turns. Yegerlehner brilliantly captures Christopher's odd mannerisms while also showing the emotional and intellectual breakthroughs this teenager experiences through multiple traumatic blows. Yegerlehner captures the intricate emotional swings that come as Christopher's world falls apart. We see Christopher collapse as he discovers deliberate betrayal, and then we see the heroic determination it takes to put his broken world right despite his limited personal resources. Yegerlehner makes Christopher's wild emotional ride credible, compelling, and exciting.

Director Leslee Richards deliverers an excellent, high quality production. The pacing is perfect, as is the set design by Mary Rossman. Richards brings together a strong supporting cast to give Yegerlehner everything he needs to soar. While all cast members turn in solid performances, Tim Crofton as Christopher's father is on fire. He shifts credibly from selfish and boorish to caring and compassionate—a perfect range for a single parent struggling to raise a special needs child. This is a stunning performance you don't see often.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, through October 14, 2018, at the Vortex Theatre, 2900 Carlisle NE, Albuquerque NM. The show starts at 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2:00 pm on Sundays. General admission is $22, $19 for ATG members, and $15 for students and those in an entertainment union. The performance on September 29 is a benefit for the Holman Foundation for Autism. Tickets for that show are $30, and there will be cake and champagne afterwards. You can buy tickets online at or by phone at 247-8600.