1. When doing detective work you can find a lot more than you ever intended to.
2. A story told in cartesian space, comprised of a three dimensional array of LEDs, can be touching and human.
The touring production of The National Theatre's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will provide a show with both a brain and a heart, performed on a staged decked out in two kilometers of LED lights.
Attend the Tuesday evening performance of the before mentioned show at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the story of Christopher Boone, a 15 year old autistic boy, who starts some detective work in order to find out who killed his neighbor's dog. Through this process he ends up learning a lot about himself and his family, it is a touching story about pushing your own boundaries and being brave.
The scenic design (Bunny Christie), lighting design (Paule Constable) and sound design (Ian Dickinson) all help to place the audience into Christopher's mind. The coordinate system that comprises the stage is defined by a grid of LED lights. The stage is mostly bare except boxes that serve multiple purposes (see Fig. 1 below). Props, such as a train set, are brought onto the stage as needed through compartments in the walls of the set. The lights and projections are used to both display drawings from Christopher's notes (which are the basis of the narration of the play), and to shine into the audience. This provides a sensory overload along with loud sounds, together this experience aids in sensing Christopher's own feelings and his interpretation of the world around him.
Fig 1. Cast of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Photo by Joan Marcus.
On the stage of Christopher's mind we see his world come together. Christopher, played by Adam Langdon is at the center. Christopher is a very demanding character to play, but Langdon does it with grace. He is on stage for nearly the entire play, moving about frantically one moment, explaining things matter of factly the next and curled up on the floor not long after. Throughout all of these transitions Adam remains entirely in character. Around Christopher many different characters revolve, but the ones most important to him are his teacher and his parents.
Maria Elena Ramirez plays Siobhan, Christopher's teacher who seems more like a therapist. She understands how to talk to Christopher, how to help him to interact with the world, and often times it is her voice and explanations that come to Christopher's mind and calm him when he is in difficult situations. Ramirez brings the calm to Christopher's franticness, and serves both a fabulous foil and an aid to his character. (See Fig. 2 below).
Fig 2. Adam Langdon, Felicity Jones Latta and Maria Elena Ramirez in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Gene Gilette and Felicity Jones Latta* play Christopher's parent's Ed and Judy. They have a lot in common, they struggle with knowing how to parent Christopher, they love him, and they make a lot of mistakes. They also don't get along with each other. In all of their faults and inevitable good meaning behind them, both characters are easy to sympathize with, and also to despise. Both Gillette and Jones Latta bring such humanity and truth to their characters. Through them we see the immense challenges, demands and rewards that come from parenting someone, like Christopher, who is differently abled.
Throughout the roughly two and a half hours of the play, on a stage filled with an array of LED lights, some detective work spirals out into so much more than that. The play is not just about detective work but a way for the audience to see through the eyes of someone different than themselves. We get to see Christopher push himself. We see the personal journey of an incredibly brave, challenged, and intelligent boy who at the end realizes that he is capable of so much.
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night playing at the Orpheum Theater until December 4.
*Side note:Felicity Jones Latta may be or seem familiar to Twin Cities Theater goers. She is a Twin Cities native who started her career here, and her identical twin, Charity Jones, performs all around town.