By Daniel Skora
Do you know who killed Wellington? If you read the book, you’d know. Mark Haddon’s novel about “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a best seller with over 2 million copies in print and several book-of-the-year awards in hand. If you didn’t read the book or you’re ready for another take on the story, now’s your chance to watch the mystery unfold right before your eyes at the Fisher Theatre where it’s currently being staged by the National Touring Company.
Christopher Boone (played by Adam Langdon on opening night and alternating with Benjamin Wheelwright at select performances) has an interest in solving the killing of Wellington, a dog that belonged to his neighbor. He’s been accused of the crime, having been discovered by its owner Mrs. Shears (Kathy McCafferty) as he cradled the dog in his arms. The dog had been speared with a pitchfork, though Christopher, who cannot tell a lie because of his special condition, says he did not do it. Little does he know that as he begins his quest to find the perpetrator, he will unearth family secrets that will change his life forever.
Christopher is a teenager, 15 years, 3 months, and 3 days as his factual mind will tell you, and lives with his father Ed (Gene Gillette) in Swindon, England. He exhibits all the signs of being an autistic child although the play only goes so far as to say that he has special needs. Christopher lacks the most rudimentary of social skills and experiences meltdown anytime someone attempts to touch him. He hates metaphor, because, as he insists for example, even people with something to hide don’t really have skeletons in their closets. The world of numbers is the place where he is most comfortable and where he excels. His story is narrated in part by Siobhan (Maria Elena Ramirez), a teacher who serves as mentor to Christopher at the school he attends.
While asking around about whether anyone knows who killed Wellington, a neighbor, Mrs. Alexander (Amelia White), offers up some unexpected information about Christopher’s parents and the Shears. Christopher records the information in a book he is writing, but his father, who says he should stay out of other people’s business, confiscates the book. Attempting to recover his book, Christopher discovers a treasure trove of letters addressed to him from his mother (Felicity Jones Latta). Inexplicably, the letters bear a postmark that’s after the date his father told him she had passed away. The quest to find a dog-killer has now become a challenge to piece together the mystery of a broken family.
“The Curious Incident…” is a highly theatrical production where the creativity of the staging shares the spotlight with the storyline. The floor-to-ceiling background in a graph paper motif gives the show a high-tech look and highlights Christopher’s obsession with numbers. Video projections are used liberally as are light and sound effects. Props are enclosed inside panels which are accessed onstage as needed. Most everyone in the cast play several parts, and when not actively involved in a scene remain seated onstage in the background.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a detective story, an honest portrayal of a young man trapped in the mysterious world of autism, and an intriguing take on the fascinating world of numbers. If it sometimes plays more complicated or repetitive than it should, its staging more than makes up for it. The stage adaptation of Haddon’s novel is by Simon Stephens. Scenic and costume design are by Bunny Christie with incidental music by Adrian Sutton.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” runs through May 14th. Tickets are available at the Fisher Theatre box office in the Fisher Building, by phone at 1.800.982.2787, and online at www.TicketMaster.com. Information is available online at www.BroadwayinDetroit.com or by phone at 313.871.1132. The Fisher Theatre is located at 3011 West Grand Blvd. in Detroit.