What a show, what an experience, what a night!
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” opened at Providence Performance Arts Center the other night—it runs through this Sunday, Feb. 12 and there’s still time to get your tickets—and I was lucky enough to be in the audience.
When I recently spoke with cast member Francesca Choy-Kee, she told me the play—the 2015 Tony Award winner for best play—was like nothing else running today. She was right and in all the best ways.
“Curious” revolves around 15-year-old Christopher, an assumed autistic (it is never expressly stated) youth whose interest in the gruesome murder of his neighbor’s dog ends up taking him on a journey that uncovers family secrets and challenges his controlled world.
But what the play really is about is experiencing the world as a boy like Christopher might—a world where almost every encounter with another person could send your senses into overdrive—and the added difficulties this brings when those who are meant to keep you safe lie and betray you.
“Curious” succeeds because it utilizes storytelling techniques that may seem unusual.
Its set is designed to put you inside Christopher’s head, the way dialogue and choreography typically might. The play’s few main characters—Christopher, his family, his teacher and a couple of neighbors whose importance is revealed slowly throughout the story—stay within a sort of box lit by a giant type of green screen onto which Christopher’s thoughts are projected.
They move with the help of the supporting cast to convey when they might be sleeping or swimming, but the idea is to stir the audience’s empathy. They are viewing the action the way Christopher does his whole life—from a point where everything is either blurry or larger-than-life.
This is done most exceptionally when Christopher travels from his small town in England to London and is overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds of a large Tube station as he tries to navigate his way through the trek.
Mark Haddon, the author of the book on which “Curious” was based, has said his work was not about autism. In fact, he did no research into autism for his book and directors, critics and others have debated the authenticity with which Boone’s autism is portrayed.
Haddon has said that “Curious” is “a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way.”
And couldn’t we all use a little more of that?
P.S. PPAC announces their 2017-2018 season—sure to be another lineup of superb shows—this Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, Feb. 14. Look for a recap right here on 100ThingsPVD.com.