This past Tuesday I attend opening night of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at the Durham Performing Arts Center. This was a different theater experience for me at DPAC for several reasons. First of all this was a play. Everything I have seen at DPAC so far has been a musical, which I have greatly enjoyed, but seeing a play was a nice change of pace and served to remind of just how shilled the actors are that these productions bring to the Triangle.
Second, was the set. Simplistic in its design it is essentially a giant electronic cube which transforms from serving as a simple blackboard to an bustling underground London train station in an instant. The set also includes several translucent boxes that are used as various props throughout the scenes (from chairs, to televisions) through the use of movement and light. Flashing lights and electronic beats accent points of conflict or drama much like rage and confusion may spark a surge of electronic impulses in the brain. For you see the cube is not just a stage for the action in the physical world it is a window into the mind of the main character.
This leads me to the third thing about this production that really impressed me. That is the depth of the characters.Unlike musicals that use song and music to convey thoughts and emotions the actors on the stage Tuesday night showed raw emotion not only though their lines, but their body language and at times what would otherwise be uncomfortable silences. The story takes us on a journey seen through the lens of the mind of a 15 year old boy named Christopher (played by Adam Langdon). Though the play never specifically identifies this, Christopher suffers from a form of high-function autism. He is a teenage maths genius, who never tells lies, doesn’t like yellow and dreams of being an astronaut.
When Christopher finds the neighbor’s dog has been killed, he sets out to find out who did it, setting in motion an extraordinary series of events that will push Christopher to take on a journey well outside of his comfort level. And while we find out who killed the dog by the end of the first act, it is the second act that takes Christopher on a journey that will test his ability to deal with the outside world and truly show him what he is capable of accomplishing. Through the process this journey not only changes Christopher but helps reshape the lives of those around him.
The play is a melting pot of emotion, with a range of human behaviors for Christopher to navigate, and hopefully, conquer. If you find life to be annoying and confusing at times then the journey of this show will strike a chord with you. The Curious Incident does not answer all of life’s questions, but it will leave you with a sense of hope and encouraged that everyone has the ability to overcome their internal and external struggles if they try.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” shows through this Sunday, February 26th at DPAC. For tickets visit: