THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Theatrical magic doesn’t get more magical than the Tony-winning brilliance that is the National Theatre production of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, nor lead performances more remarkable than Adam Langdon’s as Christopher Boone, the most unlikely of detectives about to embark on the most thrilling, harrowing, and rewarding of journeys.

Fiction fans know Christopher as the fifteen-year-old hero of a 2003 Mark Haddon novel that, like Simon Stephens’s 2013 London stage adaptation, introduces us to the budding young Swindon mathematician without putting a name on “behavioral difficulties” including an insistence on set routines, the inability to judge nonverbal cues, seeming emotional coldness, tantrums when touched, and a tendency to prattle on about a single subject, in Christopher’s case the murder-by-garden-fork of neighborhood dog Wellington, whose death our young hero sets out, in true Sherlock Holmes fashion, to unravel. (Indeed, Haddon’s novel takes its title from an Arthur Conan Doyle short story.)

Playwright Simon Stephens, whose Heisenberg and Punk Rock have established him as one of England’s most dynamic, original theatrical voices, proves himself equally adept at adaptation, taking Haddon’s novel (written as Christopher’s first-person journal), managing to include just about every colorful character and unexpected plot twist, and in a stroke of inspiration, retelling it as the play Christopher has written about a “murder” investigation turned odyssey.

Still, if ever there were a production for which the written word is but a point of departure, it is the National Theatre production of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, director Marianne Elliott and her U.K. design team joining forces to create as supremely theatrical an experience as you’re likely to see for a good long while.

Ensemble members not only bring to vivid life the multitude of characters Christopher encounters on his journey, including the neighbors he interviews for clues, the police officers who become involved in his investigation, and the strangers he must rely on as he leaves the familiarity of home, they reconfigure what appear to be plain white boxes into a countless configurations, stand in for pieces of furniture, and in one of the production’s most stunning visuals, enable Christopher seemingly to take flight.

Not only does Bunny Christie’s scenic design offer myriad surprises, not the least of which is that a box is not always just a box, her costumes permit cast members to switch identities in hardly more than an instant.

And speaking of miraculous, Finn Ross’s video design, Ian Dickinson’s sound design, Paule Constable’s lighting, Adrian Sutton’s original music, and Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett’s choreography allow audiences to experience the world surrounding Christopher as he himself does in all its bewildering, at times overpowering complexities. (The sensory overload that is Christopher’s arrival in a city forty times larger than the one he calls home is a video/sound-design stunner if there ever was one.)

Still, no matter the stage pyrotechnics surrounding them, there’s be no Curious Incident without its wondrous young star.

The complexities and humanity 2015 Juilliard grad Langdon’s brings to Christopher in his tour-de-force performance as a the oddest and most endearing of contemporary teen Sherlock Holmes are simply dazzling (and the role so physically and emotionally taxing, it’s no wonder Benjamin Wheelwright takes over at selected performances*).

Maria Elena Ramirez provides warm and winning support as Siobhan, the paraprofessional mentoring Christopher at the “special school” he attends, and Gene Gillette and Felicity Jones Latta are terrific too as loving parents whose patience is tested on a daily basis.

Supporting ensemble members Brian Robert Burns, Francesca Choy-Kee, Josephine Hall, John Hemphill, Robyn Kerr, Kathy McCafferty, Tim McKiernan, J. Paul Nicholas, Geoffrey Wade, Amelia White, and Tim Wright not only do finely delineated work in multiple roles each, the mostly all-American bunch never fail to convince as Brits.

Benjamin E. Klein is associate director and Yasmine Lee and Jess Williams are associate choreographers. C. Randall White is production stage manager.

In an era in which Broadway plays (as opposed to musicals) rarely if ever tour the country, the latest at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts more than justifies its National Tour status. From London to New York to Los Angeles, the National Theatre production of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time is something quite extraordinary indeed.

*Benjamin Wheelright plays Christopher at this week’s Thursday, Saturday matinee, and Sunday evening performances.

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Segerstrom Center For The Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Through September 17. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 7:30. Saturday at 2:00 and 7:30. Sunday at 1:00 and 6:30. Reservations: 714 556-2787
www.scfta.org

–Steven Stanley
September 12, 2017
Photos: Joan Marcus

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