'Curious Incident' review: The Dio's compelling production leaps off the stage
Courtesy of Michele Anliker Photography.
An emotionally daunting rollercoaster that comes alive on The Dio stage, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is one of most visually striking (and engrossing) productions you could see this year. Adapted from Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel about an extremely detailed oriented and mathematically gifted 15-year-old boy named Christopher, who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), “Curious Incident” brings the action from all angels, with a demanding (both physically and mentally) book by Simon Stephens that asks its 10-person ensemble to personify everything (and everyone) from crotchy police officers, local pastors, drunken buffoons to kitchen appliances and ATMs. Most of the time, the actors live on stage, watching the drama unfold in real-time, creating an interesting divide between the perspective of Christopher’s journey and the audience standing on the outside looking in.
With direction by Jared Schneider and scenic, lightning and sound by Matt Tomich, The Dio has no issues maximizing its stage to create an intimate and at the same time larger than life playground for the actors. The scenery, which is essentially a blank canvas for Christopher to unspool his thoughts and dreams with the use of projections and his fellow performers, creates a dreamlike landscape with immersive qualities that keeps the narrative’s momentum steady. Likewise for Austin McCoy’s consistently engaging performance as Christopher, the beating heart of the show who we first meet hunched over the deceased remains of Wellington, his next-door neighbor’s dog. There’s no telling what compelled an individual to murder the animal, but Christopher is adamant about finding who did even if the locals think he’s responsible.
His father, Ed (Andrew Gorney) would prefer he stay out of everyone’s business, but the “Sherlock Holmes” loving teenager can’t resist the allure and it sends him on a mission that uncovers more about his past and relationships than anticipated. Unlike the novel, the staged adaptation runs with the conceit we’re watching a school play based on Christopher’s own writings, complete with narration and the interchangeable ensemble who help bring his vision to life. They’re several moments involving trains, astronomy, and, of course, mathematics that provide valuable insight to Christopher’s impressionable and easily overwhelmed mind. McCoy is present, as is most of the cast, on-stage for the duration of the production’s runtime and the energy and pace never falter. McCoy and Gorney have incredible chemistry alongside Marlene Inman who plays Christopher’s mother, Judy.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by Anne Bauman, Rachael Cupples, Kelsi Fay, Dante Justice, Donovan Leary, Dan Morrison, and Monica Spencer who all rise to the occasion of the script’s demanding emotional catharsis while also helping mimic sounds and nailing impressions and accents. Together, they embolden an already solid script and elevate it beyond Christopher’s gaze, giving audiences a subversive treat rich with character and design. Costumes by Norma Polk, Steve DeBruyne’s artistic direction, and props master Eileen Obradovich certainly anchor a good chunk of the show behind the scenes.
“Curious Incident” is a beautiful and heart-wrenching show unwavering in its presentation of parenting, trauma, and the chaotic madness of daily life. Schneider’s staging feels both unique and interesting (a scene where Christopher is literally caught in the tracks between his parents is unforgettable) and Tomich’s sound/lighting help take the audience to new Dio heights. The dinner served before curtain, a combination of show-inspired goodies and the signature fried chicken plus an incredible (and I emphasize incredible) cheesecake dessert, puts a nice button on an already sensational production. If you’re going to see one show this summer, put “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at the top.
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME continues through July 17th at The Dio. Tickets include dinner and a show. Resvervations can be made here.