9/17/2023 THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME Merely Players Presents
In the dark of night, in Swindon, in the county of Wiltshire, South West England (114 km west of London; 56 km east of Bristol; 56 km west of Reading), an unfortunate dog (name Wellington, breed unspecified -- some sources say “Poodle”) breathes his last, pierced by a garden fork (“pitchfork” to the Americans among you). Local teen, Christopher Boone, a “mathematical genius with behavioral issues,” embarks on an adventure to discover the killer.
Christopher Boone, whose specific mental state remains unnamed, but results in digressions, distractions, sensory overload, tantrums, over-attention to details and minutia, and savant-level mathematic (and geographic) acuity finds the answer closer to home than he ever imagined, uncovering a web of deceptions only the lessons of his teacher and mentor, Ms. Siobhan equips him to navigate.
Thus is the set-up to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a play by Simon Stephens, based on a novel by Mark Haddon, with a title drawn from the Sherlock Holmes story called “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” (see footnote below). Mr. Haddon has remarked that he resents the use of specific arm-chair psychological names for any condition characteristic of Christopher Boone, even going so far as to claim he did more research on the London Underground and the Swindon train station than he did on any pop psychology, choosing instead to base the character of Christopher Boone on people he knows. According to Mr. Haddon, Christopher Boone’s only relevant “condition” is “outsider.”
Mr. Haddon’s book is structured as a series of prime-numbered chapters told from the point-of-view of Christopher Boone, replete with all the digressions, and sensory overload, and detailed minutiae as would be the world as experienced by Christopher Boone.
So too is this play, a theatrical sensory overload replete with projections, digressions, tantrums, bright colors, journeys through the universe, and unyielding terrors, all of which help us share the world as experienced by Christopher Boone. The same nine faces occupy all the characters in the life and journey of Christopher Boone and his pet rat Toby. And when the adventure leads to London and its bedlam (a shortening of Bethlehem Royal Hospital, a London hospital for other outsiders with “behavioral problems”), a cacophony of sights, a roiling maelstrom of sounds, which are metaphors, and Christopher Boone does not like metaphors, even though the word “metaphor” is a metaphor itself, these selfsame nine human faces seemingly multiply exponentially seeming closer to nine hundred ninety-nine than to nine. Nine is NOT a prime number but is the third natural square value, 999 is the Emergency Telephone Number in Great Britain, and, in numerology, the number nine signifies “completion.”
Christopher Boone is played by Aris Averkiou, a young man of seemingly endless energy and invention, a man of such creativity that one would feel justified in claiming he was not an actor but another young man experiencing the same behavioral problems of Christopher Boone. He is not. What he is, is a marvel.
As are the nine human faces that occupy his universe. Kristian Rodriguez plays the father of Christopher Boone, at times cruel and conniving, at others heart-shatteringly tender and loving. Casey Cudmore is Siobhan, bringing such a full level of empathy, a concept alien to Christopher Boone; she is his touchstone to navigating this strange and unsympathetic world. Abra Thurmond is the mother of Christopher Boone, even though he has been assured she died two years ago. The remaining six human faces – Darci Wells, Michael Joshua Williams, Michael Donelan, Allen Cox, Amalia González -Cidre, Kitt Marsh – play more than twenty additional characters (and props) in a whirlwind of design and skill.
This is the third time I have seen this play and the differences between this and the former productions are irrelevant, as each production stands on its own merits, and the merits of this production are legion. Any disappointments I may have experienced will be left unsaid and unremembered in the wake of all the satisfactions on view here. The differences, if indeed they exist, become invisible when lost to the comparative functioning of my (too quickly) aging brain and (too quickly) fading memory.
When all is said and done and journaled, I was moved by the same moments, alarmed by the same moments, amused by the same moments, overjoyed by the same moments.
And, as in my previous visits to the world of Christopher Boone, at no time did I feel anything but the most core-level connection to Christopher Boone and to his story. Director Joanie McElroy (apparently) understands Christopher Boone and his challenges and (apparently) understands how to stage his story in the best of all possible stagings within the considerable constraints of low-budget theater. It should be noted that I am friends with Ms. McElroy and have worked with her and may retain considerable bias in favor of her skills and talents.
So, is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time really about that curious condition that remains unnamed, and unexamined? I would say that no, it the story of a young mathematical genius, an outsider trying to pilot his course through an insider world, and in the process manages to:
Find his way to London on his own
Solve the mystery of the murder of Wellington
Reunite with a mother he thought was dead, freeing her from a toxic relationship
Write his own story for Ms. Siobhan and his classmates (“You’re too old to play a policeman”) to perform
Pass his A Level Mathematics exam with highest mark despite being confused and sleepy
Start a journey to once again trust his father
Be reassured that he CAN become a scientist
Make his esoteric proof for a tough mathematics concept theatrical and entertaining
Discover inner wisdom by focusing on creative activity
Name and care for a new dog.
Given all this, it’s as if his “behavior problems” are a mere afterthought.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com #MerelyPlayersPresents #TheCuriousIncidentOfTheDogInTheNighttime )
Footnote: Full Sherlock Holmes reference:
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
Holmes: To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
Gregory: The dog did nothing in the night-time.
Holmes: That was the curious incident.
Let me take this final moment to apologize to Christopher Boone for my fondness of metaphors and yellow prose; if there is no recognized definition of “yellow prose,” let me assure you that what you have just read it.