The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

October 22, 2017

in Plays

Play (2012)
by Simon Stephens
Based on the novel (2003) by Mark Haddon

Directed by Paul Daigneault
Movement Direction by Yo-El Cassell

Speakeasy Stage Company
Boston Center for the Arts
South End, Boston
October 20 – November 25, 2017

Scenic Design by Christopher & Justin Sader

With Eliott Purcell (Christopher Boone), Craig Mathers (Ed Boone), Laura Latreille (Judy Boone), Jackie Davis (Siobhan), Tim Hackney (Roger Shears, Duty Sergeant, Ensemble), Cheryl McMahon (Mrs. Alexander, Posh Woman, Ensemble), Christine Power (Mrs. Shears, Mrs. Gascoyne, Ensemble), Alejandro Simoes (Policeman, Mr. Thompson, Ensemble), Damon Singletary (Reverend Peters, Uncle Terry, Ensemble), Gigi Watson (No. 40, Lady in Street, Ensemble)

Eliott Purcell as Christopher in 'The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time'

Eliott Purcell as Christopher
in “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time”
Photo: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots
Courtesy of Speakeasy Stage Company

A beautifully produced version of the hit play based on the popular psychological mystery novel about a mildly autistic boy who tries to come to grips with the mystery of a murdered dog and other conundrums in his life.

Christopher (Eliott Purcell) is an autistic fifteen year old, particularly talented in math, living with his father, Ed (Craig Mathers) in a suburb of London. The murder of a neighbor’s dog confronts him as a mystery to be solved, and, in the search for answers, Christopher uncovers all kinds of unanswered questions about his own life, including ones about his mother, Judy (Laura Latreille), whom he has presumed dead for the past several years. Neighbors and teachers weigh in and help to dramatize the search for insight into the various interrelated conundrums.

The Speakeasy has really hit it big-time with this wonderfully wrought interpretation of the recent play based on the 2003 novel by Mark Haddon. The acting is superb and the staging and choreography are done with effectiveness and precision. The overall effect is affecting and penetrating without being either overwrought or mawkish. Carefully directed and designed, the production manages to effectively convey the mysterious consciousness of a mildly autistic teenager wrestling with his compromised capacity to adapt to the world around him.

Eliott Purcell as Christopher does a truly amazing job of conveying this character. He at once embodies an obsessive, remote and fearful child, and, at the same time, a truly vulnerable and compassionate one with whom we feel immediate empathy. It is a real trick to manage such a thing and Purcell does it exquisitely.

Craig Mathers as Ed rises to the occasion most admirably in translating a heartrendingly knotty role that involves holding together a complex of feelings about fatherhood, marriage, betrayal, violence and vulnerability.

As Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher, Jackie Davis weighs in consistently in a manner that underscores the subtle importance of the teacher’s role in Christopher’s prospective liberation.

As Judy, Laura Latreille is tough and warm all at once and transmits the bare emotion within a nexus of issues that has given rise to the current mess.

The ensemble is adept and ingenious at every turn. The choreography of their collective role-playing through an eloquent array of gestures, overseen by Yo-El Cassell, is done with accuracy and inventiveness, yielding a result which is continually visually stimulating and engaging.

All the British accents are right on the mark, quite natural, not at all ridiculous, an appealing embellishment to a great production.

The set has been decorated with a whole bunch of drawings and doodles, some of which are enhanced during the performance. The sheer array of those in the eloquent set designed by Christopher and Justin Sader is daunting, but the care with which they have been done underscores the quality of the young protagonist’s character, and ultimately most effective in helping to convey its nuances.

The show completes in a coda with a math demonstration; it is just terrific. Alluded to briefly in the body of the performance, nobody takes it very seriously until the curtain calls have been done and the cast reappears. When it appears it is a wonderful touch, true to the form and tone of the play.

Other productions of this play have been far too heavy on gaudy stagecraft which, with lots of flashing lights and loud sounds, serves to obliterate whatever subtleties of character and development are embedded in the narrative.

Alternatively, this Speakeasy production delivers the true merit of the play with deft choreography and design, sensitive direction and acting, conveying its dramatic heart effectively and eloquently.

– BADMan

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