Theater review: Oklahoma City Repertory premieres profound, must-see 'Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time'
A version of this review will appear in Saturday's The Oklahoman.
Theater review: CityRep premieres profound, must-see 'Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time'
Empathetic storytelling and innovative staging merge into a profound, must-see theatrical experience with Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre’s regional premiere of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
CityRep is performing Simon Stephens’ lauded stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s acclaimed best-selling novel through Sunday at the Civic Center Music Hall’s Freede Little Theatre, and the short run is absolutely the worst part about this captivating show.
The London production won a then-record seven Olivier Awards in 2013, the Broadway version earned five Tony Awards in 2015, and the national tour was extended three times, unheard of for a straight (non-musical) play. That’s a lot of accolades, but “The Curious Incident” deserves them all.
The play opens with the stark image of English teenager Christopher Boone (Oklahoma City University student Cameron Law in his outstanding professional debut) kneeling next to his neighbor’s dog, which has been killed with a pitchfork. Despite his father’s (Luke Thomas Eddy) stern command to mind his own business, Christopher is determined to solve the mystery of who killed the dog, and his investigation leads him to several shocking discoveries and on an arduous but life-altering journey to London.
Although neither the book nor the play ever assign him with a diagnosis, Christopher has many of the common hallmarks of someone on the autism spectrum: He is overwhelmed by loud noises, bright lights and crowds, dislikes being touched by anyone and engages in “stimming” behaviors like worrying the drawstrings of his hoodie or rocking when he gets upset. Although he excels at math and reasoning, he finds people with their lies, emotions and metaphors hard to figure. To his credit, Law depicts these traits without ever letting Christopher become a caricature, allowing us to step into the proverbial shoes of someone with autism, while keeping up a clipped, near-constant narration and never once leaving the stage while the story is unfolding.
Under the direction of W. Jerome Stevenson, the entire cast does a terrific job of bringing to life the complicated, relatable characters. Dallas-based actress Lisa Fairchild makes a lovely CityRep debut as Siohbhan, Christopher’s warm and wise teacher, who sometimes takes over the narration as she reads from the journal he keeps of his investigation. Without any flowery speeches, the script provides a wrenching look into the complexities and challenges of parenting a special needs child, with Eddy and Maria Hurdle giving truthful performances as Christopher’s often-beleaguered father and mother.
Along with playing various roles, the stalwart actors frequently engage in a kind of evocative ballet, choreographed by Hui Cha Poos of RACE Dance, that provides additional insight into Christopher’s mindset, from the security he finds in his daily routine to the panic he feels in navigating a train station.
Although CityRep is as far from Broadway in budget as it is in physical distance, the resourceful crew uses many of the same inventive techniques to open the window into Christopher’s mind even wider: Ben Hall’s spare, black-and-white set design, Adam Chamberlain’s effective lighting and projections, and stage manager Steve Emerson’s striking sound design add an intriguing immersive quality to the storytelling.
Theatergoers will want to stay after the bows – when Christopher returns and puts a charming cap on the performance – and for post-show talkbacks. CityRep is presenting the show during National Autism Awareness Month and partnering with Autism Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Autism Network. After Thursday night’s preview performance, members of the latter participated in a Q&A, providing the audience, cast and crew insight into some of the concerns facing people with autism and their families.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. April 7.
Where: Civic Center Music Hall’s Freede Little Theater, 201 N Walker.
Tickets and information: 848-3761 or www.cityrep.com.