Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time began life as a 2003 mystery novel by Mark Haddon and was adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens, premiering at National Theatre in London August 2012. It arrived on Broadway in 2014, scooping up the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.
Florida Studio Theatre is forced to tone down the lavishness of the original production; the theater space would not accommodate it, let alone the budget. Pared down a bit, I found it easier to get more involved in Christopher Boone's journey. Alexander Stuart recently played Christopher at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and was the second autistic actor to play the part. His is a performance I won't soon forget, vivid without calculation, living and breathing in front of us.
Todd Licea plays Christopher's father Ed in a rich performance. Ed has made some serious errors regarding Christopher in the past and there is some emotional messiness to clean up. Mr. Licea conveys the complexity of the terrain between father and son, helped a great deal by the excellent script. Company favorite Rachel Moulton plays Judy, Christopher's mother. This is a fine performance, though the script doesn't portray Judy as deeply as it does Ed. In a warm performance, Ashton Heyl is Siobhan, Christopher's teacher and narrator of the story.
The ensemble members are labeled as voices one through six and include actors often featured in much more prominent roles, many of whom have appeared at FST regularly. All are excellent.
The production is under the direction of Artistic Director Richard Hopkins. His last directing assignment was less than a year ago, the excellent Honor Killing, but before that it had been five years since I had seen him direct a mainstage production. More is the pity, because in going over the ones he had directed, many stand out in my memory for being outstanding. This play is a complex one and Hopkins keeps it brilliantly in focus.
Scenic designers Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay have given their director a basically plain playing space, unusually large for this auditorium, open all the way to the rear and extended a few feet beyond normal in the front. Kimberly Matela's costumes are perfect, simple everyday dress, not calling any real attention. Lighting designer Thom Beaulieu and projection designer Bobby Johnston are the real heroes; their contributions are major assets of the production. Thomas Korp is the sound designer, and everything is clear and focused. Movement director Sunny Hitt and fight director Dan Granke make fine contributions.
In the past couple of months I have been fortunate to see some superb productions, each containing performances among the greatest I have seen in my theatrical lifetime. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Florida Studio Theatre is assuredly one of them. The good news is that, due to an extension made before it even opened, it is scheduled through March 29 and could possibly extend further if demand remains high. Don't miss this one!
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, through March 29, 2019, at Florida Studio Theatre, Gompertz Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information, call the box office at 941-366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.