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CCM Presents Thought-Provoking “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

Review by Nathan Top of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”: CCM Acting

Winner of the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is based on the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon and tells the story of Christopher John Francis Boone
(Jabari Carter), a teenage mathematical genius who falls somewhere on the spectrum of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. After being falsely accused of murdering the neighbor’s dog with a garden fork,  Christopher is forced to solve the mystery and clear his name. His amateur detective work, however, begins to unravel a series of secrets and relationships in his life, particularly involving his father, Ed, and his deceased mother, Judy. 

The role of Christopher has a lot of rules: He doesn’t like other people, being touched or shouted at, or jokes. There is a lot of subtext infused with this character at all times, affecting every decision and reaction throughout the work. Jabari Carter shines with nuance in the role; both his delivery and movement are captivating to watch. Gabe Nasato takes on the complex role of Christopher’s father, Ed, balancing saintlike patience with emotional exhaustion and frustrating isolation as a single parent, while Sierra Coachman elegantly portrays the heartbreaking inner-conflict of Christopher’s mother, Judy. However, the true show-stealer of the evening was Amanda Nelson, playing Christopher’s teacher, Siobhan, who is also the narrator of the show. Her engaging storytelling is an irreplaceable asset to the show, as she delivers monologues and interjections reading from Christopher’s book/journal.  The rest of the actors in the ensemble each play multiple characters throughout, including an old lady, a jilted neighbor, an alcoholic, a reverend, two different policemen, a train station attendant, and a rat. A highlight of the evening was watching Frankie Chuter play Toby, the escaped rat.

This is not a short play. Running at two hours and thirty five minutes, intermission included, the two act takes the audience on an extensive, detailed journey through Christopher’s life and mind, with some of the second act feeling longer than it needed to be. Despite this, director Richard Hess truly captures the essence of the play, which casts a wide net of moods: dark yet whimsical, humorous yet heartbreaking, grounded yet hopeful. 

The scenery, designed by CCM student Seth Howard, is both jarring and fascinating to see, even before the show starts. Upon entering the theater in the round, the audience sees, at the center, a dog impaled by a garden fork placed on top of a podium like staircase. This is surrounded by several large pieces, creating the feeling we are looking into a giant toy box, including wooden blocks, benches, a bed, a table, and some coats. This lends itself to the capricious scene-work of the play, which takes the audience through over thirty different locations, many of which we enter and exit suddenly.

The stage choreography is beautiful, appearing as a pseudo-interpretive dance to reflect how Christopher experiences significant and traumatic moments in the show. At times, the intimate stage of the Cohen Family theatre feels appropriately claustrophobic as the cast, also acting as stage crew, moves the set pieces (doors, benches, pieces of scenery) around like clockwork. This gives the illusion of a vast, fluid world. 

Largely ambitious and creatively successful, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a show not to be missed. Running through October 20th, tickets can be purchased here.