Stage review: Innovative 'Curious Incident' weaves a marvel of technology and humanity
January 5, 2017 12:00 AM
Gene Gillette as Ed and Adam Langdon as his son, Christopher Boone, in the touring company of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," at Heinz Hall through Jan. 8.
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The dazzling play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a visual feast like no other, a panoply of techno wizardry, performance artistry and the pulsing rhythms of a family in crisis.
In bringing Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel to the stage, London’s National Theatre and Tony Award-winning director Marianne Elliott, whose vision gave us the amazing puppets of “War Horse,” pulled together a digital-centric creative team to take us inside the mind of Christopher Boone.
‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’
Where: Heinz Hall, Downtown.
When: 7:30 p.m. through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m Sunday.
Tickets: $26-$77; trustarts.org or 412-392-4900.
The “Curious” tour now at Heinz Hall introduces Adam Langdon as the 15-year-old mathematics savant who struggles mightily with human interactions and can be sent into a frenzy by a touch.
Routine is his friend, but we meet Christopher as he decides to push aside his fears and the warnings of his father and solve the mystery of who killed a neighbor’s dog.
Mr. Langdon, onstage for almost every scene, is a twitchy wonder, exhibiting extreme behaviors you might associate with TV’s Sherlock or Sheldon Cooper without the play ever offering a specific diagnosis.
He is able to spout intricate monologues in what seems like a single breath while trying people’s patience at every turn, a point of empathy for perhaps the most compelling character in the play, Christopher’s father.
Gene Gillette’s Ed Boone is a rough-around-the-edges guy from a town about 70 miles from London. He also is reliable and caring as he struggles to deal with the loss of his wife and a son he can’t heal or hug.
Pushed to the brink, Ed doesn’t always make good choices. Yet we believe he has Christopher’s best interests at heart.
In the first act, we meet the mother and wife who has been lost to the Boone men in a flashback, as Christopher recalls a scare at the beach.
Choreography by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett has ensemble members subbing for ocean waves and is just one of the innovative ways “Curious” pushes the boundaries of what can be represented on stage.
We experience Christopher’s heightened sensitivities to light, sound and touch through movement and other tricks that come at the audience blaring and fierce. His second-act trip through London’s labyrinthian bustling Underground is a minefield for someone to whom all such things are alien and threatening.
The journey is an unparalleled marriage of performance, choreography and technology, devised by the award-winning team of Bunny Christie (scenic design), Paule Constable (lighting) and Finn Ross (video).
For all the sensory overload, humanity shines through. Christopher encounters many helping hands through his journeys, and even if he doesn’t seem to appreciate the kindness of strangers, the audience does.
A calming, steady influence in his life is Siobhan (Maria Elena Ramirez), his teacher and the narrator. She helps the story along by reading from a book Christopher is writing about investigating the murder of Wellington, the dog. As you find your seats, expect to see the realistic model of a golden retriever stuck with a “garden fork” at center stage.
Christopher is first on the scene, and when the dog’s owner, Mrs. Shears (Charlotte Maier in multiple roles), discovers him, it is assumed that this is his doing. He is cleared after an altercation with police, and that’s when Christopher determines to find the real killer.
For those who have not read the book or seen the play, it would be unfair to follow Christopher’s journey any further. It’s safe to say that a breach of trust with his father has sent him fleeing.
“Curious Incident” is a marvel of performance and innovation that amplifies the lives of a person and his caretakers living with a disability. It doesn’t spare us from rough language and situations, but ultimately, it sheds a light on the power of love in their lives.
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960. Twitter and Facebook: @SEberson_pg.
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