Most plays don’t open with the phrase “Holy f—k,” but “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is not your average play.
From March 4-11, the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre hosted its production of the play written by Simon Stephens, marking live theatre’s return to UM for the semester.
Based on the best-selling novel by Mark Haddon, the show follows Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy from Swindon, England, who sees the world differently than most people. When Boone becomes a prime suspect in the murder of his neighbor’s dog, he sets out to find the true murderer.
Embarking on a physical and emotional journey to solve this mystery, Boone encounters social obstacles along the way and makes life-changing discoveries. It’s a show full of twists and turns, one that starts somewhere and ends where few would expect.
Although the play never outrightly mentions it, Boone’s behavior indicates that he has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Sam Evans, a senior BFA musical theatre major who played the role of Boone, remarked that his favorite part of the production process was getting to work on the character.
“It’s been a learning experience portraying him, because seeing the world through the eyes of Christopher has opened my own eyes to the world around me more,” he said. “I’ve gained an appreciation for how magnificent and special the way Christopher and people like him are able to see the world.”
As the entire play is told through Boone’s eyes, the Ring’s production reflected this first-person narration with tactical lighting and projections that took the audience to a school classroom, a train car, the streets of London and even outer space.
“They add to the imaginative aspect of the show and allow the audience to be transported to the magical world of Christopher’s mind,” Evans said.
Emilia Torello, a senior BFA musical theatre major who played the role of Siobhan, Boone’s teacher, echoed this sentiment.
“It’s full of both magical realism and very real moments of conflict and struggle between Christopher and his relationships with the people around him,” she said.
Directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Niko Cruz, the production also utilized the Ring’s round seating, which Evans said he has never done before as a performer.
“[Cruz’s] direction of the show has been so artistic and expressive…it allows for a more intimate and immersive experience for the audience,” he said.
“You fall as deep into this world as those of us up there on the stage,” Torello commented.
While it certainly made the heartbreaking scenes that much more poignant, the script skillfully balanced those heavier moments with plenty of humor, giving the audience an honest, unfiltered view at what life is like for the character and those around him.
“Christopher never lies, so the sense of honesty that comes with portraying the character is quite refreshing because we aren’t always able to be honest with ourselves and each other in everyday life,” Evans said. “Having the opportunity to express that unapologetic truthfulness on stage as Christopher is so freeing and I feel grateful to be able to share his story.”
When asked what he believed the audience would take away from “The Curious Incident,” Evans said the show would have people leave the theatre in a different place than they came in, with greater understanding.
“This play and this production especially are about discovery and transformation,” Evans emphasized. “I’ve loved sharing this story with audiences and I think everyone can learn from it.”
“I hope that the audience remembers being able to see the beauty of things through the perspective of a boy who simply cannot tell lies,” Torello added.
If you couldn’t catch this show run, don’t fret — the Ring will also be showing a production of Cabaret this spring. From April 21 through April 30, catch UM’s B.F.A. and B.A. Theatre Arts majors as they transform the Ring Theatre to the Kit Kat Club. Head to the Ring Theatre’s website to learn more about Cabaret and purchase tickets, which go on sale April 7.