The new play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon is a remarkable new work that takes you inside the mind of Christopher, a 15-year old boy with Autism. As the play opens, the young boy is sitting on stage petting a dead dog with a garden fork stuck in it. Naturally, being found lying by the dog immediately gives the dog's owner, Mrs. Shear (Mercedes Herrero) the impression that Christopher is the person responsible for the dog's death.
This sets the stage for the play's first mystery. Who killed the dog, Wellington? Young Christopher takes it upon himself, despite being told not to by his father, to suss out exactly who killed Wellington, while at the same time revealing another mystery of perplexing and not insignificant importance.
The construct of the play is that it is first a diary, kept by Christopher and then turned into a school play written by Christopher based on his detecting experiences. At times Christopher voices his own thoughts, at other times it is read or acted by his teacher Siobhan (Francesca Faridany) or other characters. Breaking up the telling of the story to Christopher, a "narrator" and other characters give this play its texture and interest.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the best plays to come to Broadway in a long time. It possesses a riveting, artfully woven story line, a superb cast and a physical production that has been tightly crafted to supply subtext to the play. It is a British import and started its life at the National Theatre in 2012 where it garnered six Olivier Awards, including Best Play and is still running.
Newly minted Juilliard graduate, Alex Sharp, is Christopher. Sharp is a remarkable young actor with a bright career ahead of him. His portrayal of the autistic Christopher is subtle, consistent and moving. As his father, Ian Barford skillfully conveys both love and frustration in dealing with Christopher. Francesca Fardinay as Siobhan is moving and engaging as she narrates the story and portrays Christopher's strongest advocate, his teacher. His mother, Judy, is given an intense performance by Enid Graham. The entire ensemble is rock solid as the myriad other characters represented.
The play is directed with poetic precision by Marianne Elliott (War Horse). Elliott has utilized pulsating music by Adrian Sutton, and choreography by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, to aid in the telling of this story and the recreation of the literality and confusion with which Christopher experiences his world.
The set design by Bunny Christie (also responsible for costume design) consists of three walls upon which the lines of graph paper have been painted. Above the graph are the words "Time" on the upstage wall and "Space" on the stage-right wall. The graph paper mirrors Christopher's comprehension of facts as he understands them, structured and literal. The sound design by Ian Dickinson is joined with the lighting design of Paule Constable to visually and audibly create the misfiring synapses and literally constructed images in Christopher's mind. Finn Ross's projection design aids in some of the most impressive visuals of the evening, including Christopher's walking on the walls, floating through outer space and navigating the chaos of a London train station.
Christopher is a smart young man and not to be underestimated. He may not understand life's metaphors, "imagining an apple in someone's eye doesn't have anything to do with liking someone a lot," but he is smart enough to know that most murders are committed by someone they know, "you are most likely to be murdered by a member of your own family on Christmas Day." You will certainly empathize with Christopher at the end of the play.