Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Inside the Mind of The Curious Incident of the Dog

Last week, I saw an amazing play in New York with the most creative use of theater space I've ever seen. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a National Theatre production based on a 2003 mystery novel of the same name by Mark Haddon. The original London production--now running on Broadway--won seven Olivier Awards in 2013. 

What first appears to the audience as the chaotic thoughts and erratic behaviors of a fifteen-year-old male with Asperger syndrome, proves to be a journey through the mind of someone who is a math savant. But this is neither a play about Asperger syndrome nor math. It is about Christopher Boone's investigation into the pitchfork murder of his neighbor's dog that leads to a larger mystery he is determined to solve.

Several days after I saw the play, I was thinking about the inventive set. Duh! It finally struck me. The stage is a representation of Christopher's mind. The mystery unfolds on stage with the background, left and right sides, and the floor configured like graph paper. The open ceiling shows the limitless night sky and the scope of the boy's ambition. The lighting effects and the tech work behind this production are an eye-popping assault on the senses.

This metaphoric construct depicts the inner reality of an autistic teenager who discovers much more than he could ever imagine. He can interpret only the literal and not the figurative. When Christopher sets out in search of his mother, he must interact with the London Underground system for the first time in his life. Navigating the subway for most people is nothing more than a routine nuisance, but for Christopher, it is a harrowing ride towards self-discovery.

I expect this mystery drama will do very well Sunday night at the 2015 Tony Awards.