Photo: Austin Nedrow in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Walnut Street Theatre. Photo courtesy of Walnut Street Theatre.
A dead dog, a small town outside of London, some suspicious neighbors, a mystery, a secret, a journey. These elements make up the story of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, playing at the Walnut Street Theatre until April 28th. Fifteen-year-old Christopher is on a mission to find out what happened to Wellington; his neighbor believes he is the cause of the dog’s death but that’s not the case at all.
Christopher struggles with the people and world around him. He is uneasy in conversations with strangers, can’t easily handle new situations and places, and he doesn’t like being touched. He’s very serious and never lies. Christopher is on the autism spectrum, but this isn’t specifically mentioned in the story. We know from his mannerisms, outbursts, and the way he thinks that it’s likely, but the condition really doesn’t have much to do with the plot of the show. He’s a curious teenager who is trying to solve a mystery by stepping out of his comfort zone and trying new things. We come to understand just how hard these everyday tasks can be for some people and how our coping mechanisms differ from one another.
The set design does give a hint of Christopher’s autism diagnosis, however. Designer Roman Tatarowicz modeled the piping after the neurons in the brain of a child who is on the autism spectrum. This set is bare bones compared to most designs, yet it still tells so much. Actors can easily come in and out of the set as they take on various roles (including inanimate objects). The use of technology allows colors and graphics to appear quickly and mimic the emotions or thoughts going through Christopher’s magnificent brain.
Lancaster, PA native Austin Nedrow makes his Walnut Street Theatre debut as Christopher. Simply put, he is amazing. I look forward to seeing what characters he takes on from here. Real life husband and wife Ian Merrill Peakes and Karen Peakes play his parents. They are loving, honest, and frustrated; very believable in their roles. Together with an ensemble cast, they bring this story to life with such ease. The plot is funny at times, as we laugh at scenarios and lines that people like Christopher may not think are so humorous. The show is very real.
We see people like Christopher, his family, and his friends in our lives daily. Often, though, we don’t look up and take much notice. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time teaches us all a lesson in acceptance and forgiveness. These are the underlying messages in Christopher’s journey.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is adapted from the 2003 book of the same name by Mark Haddon. For years, Haddon was unsure that the story could be transformed into a play. It was complex. However, Haddon approached friend/playwright Simon Stephens and they got to work. The show received seven Olivier Awards during the West End run and five Tony Awards (including Best Play) when it debuted on Broadway. Additional tours include more of the UK, US, Australian, Mexico, Seoul, South Africa, and Belgium.
The success of the story’s transformation from page to stage proves that, just like Christopher can do anything, anyone can do anything.
Tickets are available here. Don’t leave after the curtain call, Christopher has a few final words for you.