By Simon Stephens.
Based on the novel by Mark Haddon.
Directed by Marianne Elliott.
Produced by Broadway in Chicago.
At the Oriental Theatre, Chicago.
Sound and difficult to understand accents hurt the story of a teen math savant struggling with life.
Broadway in Chicago rarely brings in a national tour of a non-musical but it has with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, now playing until Christmas Even at the Oriental Theatre. This 5 time Tony Award winner including for Best Play is a strange work that has an elaborate lighted box set with video and ear-numbing sound. Strange for a drama.
Based on a British novel by Mark Haddon, Simon Stephens’ drama is the story of fifteen-year old math savant Christopher (Adam Langdon with Benjamin Wheelwright splinting the weekly performances). Christopher is an extraordinary brain with little social skills. He resists being touched, never lies and hates small talk. This is the story of this autistic boy’s coming-of-age sparked when he falls under suspicion of killing his neighbor’s dog. This play becomes a mystery the teen wants to solve. This adventure will change his life forever. (Note: this is not a work for children.)
The play’s point-of-view is from Christopher’s as we see his reaction of events such as his scary travel to London through vivid lighting, extreme sounds and ensemble movements that pick-up the teen as he screams with fear. This work will tug at your emotions and empathy as you go on the adventure with Christopher. Eventually this play creates sensory overload as the ear-crushing sounds and lighting collide with the wild ensemble movement that moves Christopher along his mysterious journey. You”ll see more fantastical movement in this play than in most plays. These sensory bits are usually only found in musicals. But they exist in Christopher’s perspective.
But, before you get to the action-packed second act, you must endure a slowly paced first act that overly states Christopher’s personality and foibles. My problem comes from the decision to have the narrator and Christopher himself speaking in a working class British accent at a pace that qualified the female narrator and the boy to be auctioneers since they spoke much too fast. Add the reverberating sound from the large box set and the dialogue became hard to understand. It would help if the speakers would slow down so we can grasp their meaning. At the intermission, many folks complained that they couldn’t understand what was spoken. After the intermission, there were a number of empty seats. The tedious pace together with the slurred speech put some to sleep and drove others home.
But act two found Christopher’s adventures highlighted by the sensory bombardment as his mind’s eye led him to solve the mystery of the dog’s death as well as his enlightenment. But act one failed to establish enough sympathy and empathy for me to care about Christopher. He comes off as a cold, socially challenged boy in need of enhanced social skills. I also found that his parents and educators we not capable of helping Christopher with his special needs.
The play comes off as too long (at 2 hours, 30 minutes) about a person who screams and shouts and fights most of the time as folks try to help him. I eventually got bored with his flight and the loud, vivid sensory diversions seemed a tad too much. I can’t get engrossed in the play as presented. I do admire the fanatic effort by Adam Langdom as Christopher whose performance is a star-making one. Maybe with cuts and a slower paced speech pattern, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time might work. (On my bus tide home, several ladies expressed their problems with this play. To them it was too long with actors talked too fast.)
Date Reviewed: December 7, 2016.
For more info checkout The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time page at theatreinchicago.com.
At the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL, call 800-775-2000, www.broadwayinchicago.com, tickets $25 – $98, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through December 24, 2016.