By Anne Skonieczny
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is unpleasant—in the best possible way. Tasked with telling a story filtered through the “extraordinary mind” of a teenage boy named Christopher (who appears to fall somewhere on the autism spectrum), the play creatively uses sound, light, choreography, and set design to fully immerse the audience in its main character’s unique perspective. The play is unpleasant because Christopher so often perceives the world as unpleasant. He is filled with frustration, confusion, fear, anxiety, and, above all, an unwavering sense of right and wrong. Jarring sounds and lights, and the clever use of a digital set force the audience feel the same unsettling emotions as Christopher. The result is a unique theater experience that makes this production a must-see.
The show opens with the murder of a neighborhood dog. While trying to find the animal’s killer, Christopher uncovers the disturbing truth about his parents. With his sense of security shattered, he embarks on a journey that pushes him far beyond what he thought possible.
While the real stars of the show are the sound, light, and set design teams, the onstage talent is also impressive. Recent Julliard graduate Adam Langdon tackles the role of Christopher with gusto. While perhaps not entirely believable as a teenager, his unfailing energy and rapid speech bring to life the main character’s racing mind. Langdon’s best moments come during an outer space dream sequence which finds him “floating” in zero gravity alongside his beloved pet rat.
Felicity Jones Latta and Maria Elena Ramirez deliver sound performances as Christopher’s mother and Christopher’s teacher. But, it is Gene Gillette’s portrayal of Christopher’s father Ed that steals the show. Gillette perfectly captures the stress, heartbreak, elation, and pride that come with raising a child with special needs. The standout moment of the show occurs when Christopher, who hates being touched, allows his father to hug him for the first time in years. In that embrace, Gillette manages to depict a character at both his lowest and highest points.
With its innovative set and compelling story, its easy to see why The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won the 2015 Tony for Best Play. In town for only one week, you do not want to miss your chance to see this production. Shows run from November 29 – December 4, 2016, at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Tickets can be purchased online at hennepintheatretrust.org, by calling 800-982-2787, or at the State Theatre Box Office at 805 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN. Tickets start at $39.