Curious Play

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (play).jpgOn Saturday we saw the play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”, on its US National Tour leg just ending here in San Francisco, with a different cast than the Broadway version, or any previous version, but using the same “production” (set design etc.) as the original 2012 Royal National Theatre version. It’s based of course on the celebrated 2003 short novel by Mark Haddon about a special-needs teenager in contemporary Britain (who is perhaps autistic though that term is never used in the novel, or the play) who sets out, to the consternation of his father, to investigate who killed a neighborhood dog that was stabbed to death with a pitchfork (thus the Sherlock Holmes title allusion). The story develops in surprising ways with great emotional payoffs.

The stage version employs a three-sided set of electronic display walls that variously illustrate scenes with graphics or images; the dramatization uses lighting and quick changes by the actors to juxtapose or overlap scenes from the book. Having reread the book recently, I would say that there is virtually nothing in the play that is not in the novel, though of course not every scene in the novel is captured in the play.

(I did notice that Christopher’s matter-of-fact statements about the non-existence of God — which have caused parents in some states to object to the book being taught in school — were not included in the play.)

The play even reproduces the novel’s appendix of Christopher’s proof of a math problem, in a sort of post-credits scene that is played after the cast has taken their bows and the audience has started to leave — a dazzling three-minute monologue with mathematical graphics, that keeps the audience sitting back down.

This story appeals to me mostly because it is about how differently perceptive human beings understand the world. The universe is not obviously objective. And because a few — not many, but a few — of Christopher’s characteristics resonate with me.


Blog post about the book

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