Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Boston

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
National Tour
Review by Nancy Grossman


Adam Langdon
Photo by Joan Marcus
The National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays the Boston Opera House for a limited engagement as part of the 2016/2017 Lexus Broadway In Boston season. Based on Mark Haddon's 2003 best-selling novel of the same name, it was adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens and won seven 2013 Olivier Awards and five 2015 Tony Awards, including Best Play. Although Broadway In Boston most frequently brings in the best touring musicals, Curious Incident is an outstanding choice to join the select roster of critically acclaimed plays to be presented by the organization. With an incredible array of video projections, lighting configurations, sound effects, and choreographed movement, it offers a virtual banquet for the senses.

The show is the story of fifteen-year old Christopher Boone, an exceptional British boy who displays the traits of Asperger syndrome. When he discovers the body of his neighbor's dog Wellington, killed by a garden fork, Christopher is suspected of having done the deed. Once cleared, he sets out to find the perpetrator so that punishment can be doled out. Although his father Ed repeatedly admonishes him to let it go and mind his own business, the boy doggedly (sorry) pursues his detecting, interviewing neighbors and analyzing his theories and deductions with the help of his teacher Siobhan. He records his findings in a book; when his father finds it and discovers that Christopher has disregarded his instructions, he confiscates and hides the book. Naturally, Christopher searches the house until he finds his book, but he also uncovers a secret trove of letters that turns his world upside down, sending him on an unprecedented journey.

To accompany Christopher is to go on a mind-bending trip and encounter an explosion of sensory stimuli. Scenic designer Bunny Christie, lighting designer Paule Constable, video designer Finn Ross, sound designer Ian Dickinson, and Adrian Sutton's music all combine to immerse the audience into the boy's frenzied brain as he experiences the cacophony of daily life. Anecdotal reports about the Broadway production effusively praised the Tony Award-winning design components, and the touring company is deserving of the same raves. You may never again look at a train station in quite the same way, nor take for granted your ability to navigate an unfamiliar, crowded venue, leading you to respect the boy's bravery and resourcefulness.

However, Stephens' telling of the story is as compelling as all the bells and whistles, making it easy for us to care about Christopher in spite of his oft-times challenging personality. Key to garnering affection for his character is the incredible talent of Adam Langdon, who rarely (if ever) leaves the stage and energetically manifests all of the physical and emotional requirements of the role. He gives a tour de force performance, inhabiting the sensitive, gifted math genius whose intelligence far exceeds his capacity for social interaction. Despite Christopher's lack of emotional expression, Langdon shares in some very touching scenes with his father (a passionate Gene Gillette), his mother (a conflicted Felicity Jones Latta), and his teacher (a warm, supportive Maria Elena Ramirez). The heartfelt performances of this trio provide the play with a throughline of recognizable feelings, including compassion, frustration, anger, guilt and love.

With the exception of Langdon, all of the cast members play multiple roles, such as neighbors, police, train passengers, and disconnected voices. Amelia White (Mrs. Alexander, Ensemble) is a sympathetic elderly neighbor, Charlotte Maier (Mrs. Shears/Mrs. Gascoyne/Ensemble) makes an impression as both the bereaved dog owner and difficult head of school, and John Hemphill (Roger Shears, Ensemble) differentiates a broad range of characters. The actors remain onstage most of the time, even when they are not directly involved in the action, ready to pop up at any moment. Director Marianne Elliott and choreographers Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett have done an amazing job of blocking, pacing and designing inventive forms of movement that give the show a feeling of fluidity and constant motion. If you look away for an instant, you'll miss something; even if you don't look away, you may miss something because so much is happening.

Curious Incident opened on Broadway in October 2014 and ran for nearly two years with some 800 performances. This first U.S. national tour launched in September 2016 and has dates scheduled through September 2017 at a dozen locations around the country. It is an eye-opening, intriguing play that tackles a subject familiar to most, yet presents it in an unusual, immersive theatrical style, making it accessible to a wide audience. Do not be daunted if you are math phobic, but do be sure to stick around for the coda after the curtain call.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, performances through March 19, 2017, presented by Broadway In Boston at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston, MA; Box Office 800-982-2787 or www.BroadwayInBoston.com. For more information on the tour, visit www.curiousonbroadway.com.

By Simon Stephens, adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon; Directed by Marianne Elliott; Scenic & Costume Design: Bunny Christie; Lighting Design: Paule Constable; Video Design: Finn Ross; Choreography: Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly; Music: Adrian Sutton; Sound Design: Ian Dickinson for Autograph; Hair Design: David Brian Brown; Production Stage Manager: Kathleen E. Purvis

Cast (in order of appearance): Adam Langdon, (some performances) Benjamin Wheelwright, Charlotte Maier, Maria Elena Ramirez, Brian Robert Burns, John Hemphill, Gene Gillette, Geoffrey Wade, Francesca Choy-Kee, Amelia White, Felicity Jones Latta, Robyn Kerr, J. Paul Nicholas


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