Christopher John Francis Boone is an unusual fifteen- year-old boy. Self described as “a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties,” one can see that he is outside the realm of normal. He cringes violently if touched and has many sensitivities. Yet he is brilliant in his own way. Like the classic case of the blind men and the elephant, people categorize and make judgments using terms such as Aspserger syndrome, high-functioning autism or savant syndrome. All of them or none of them really apply to Christopher. He is unique. He is wicked-smart in possession of a lightening fast brain.
Christopher, played brilliantly by the boundlessly energetic Julliard graduate, Adam Langdon, is the hero in the multiple award-winning play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon’s multiple award-winning novel. The title is cribbed from a phrase uttered by Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story, “Silver Blaze.”
The production style compliments Christopher’s abrupt actions and mental processes, starting with the opening moment. Upon entering the auditorium, the audience will see an enormous box-like set with towering black walls that look like graph paper. There is a large white dog lying on the floor skewered by a garden fork and quite dead. With a loud bang, house lights are extinguished instantly, bright stage lights go up, and there is Christopher contemplating the scene. This is the beginning of Christopher’s classic hero journey fraught with dangers emotional and otherwise.
There are too many wonderful twists, turns and surprises in the action to reveal here. It would be a disservice to the audience to be a spoiler. Those familiar with the story from having read the book will be delighted by how it plays out with this outstanding cast. Every player, save Mr. Langdon, is listed in the program as ensemble with only a few playing just one other character. As Christopher’s father, Ed, Gene Gillette is powerful and haunted, striving to do right by his boy as he battles demons of his own. Maria Elena Ramirez as Siobhan, a sympathetic counselor at Christopher’s special school, brings a measured calmness to bear as she narrates passages from a book that Christopher writes in a naked-truth style. And then there is the conundrum of Christopher’s dead mother, played with brittle passion by Felicity Jones Latta.
True to the title, there is a mystery as to who killed the dog in such a brutal fashion, and why. This is the start of Christopher’s journey. He is bound and determined to solve the mystery. In his quest he encounters many people, each one distinctly drawn in fine detail by the marvelous ensemble. Amelia White and Kathy McCafferty are neighbors, kindly and otherwise. Other individuals encountered on the journey are school officials, policemen, Londoners, clergy, travelers on a train and many more played by Brian Robert Burns, Francesca Choy-Kee, Josephine Hall, John Hemphill, Robyn Kerr, Tim McKiernan, J. Paul Nicholas, Geoffrey Wade and Tim Wright.
Superbly directed by Marianne Elliott (War Horse), the production is self-consciously theatrical, sometimes with a wink and a nod to the audience. The style of the show, with choreography by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, calls for considerable athleticism. It is not often that one can call a scenic design exciting—I think the last time I could do that was for War Horse— but the scenic design for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time qualifies in spades. Kudos goes to scenic and costume designer Bunny Christie, lighting designer Paule Constable, and video designer Finn Ross. Music by Adrian Sutton and sound by Ian Dickinson complete the immersive experience.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the great theatrical experiences and not to be missed. Do whatever it takes to get over to the Ahmanson theatre and see it to before it is gone. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs through September 10.