REVIEW: “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” at NKU

Review by Doug Iden

A troubled teenager finds a murdered dog and his world changes forever.  Based upon the Young Adult book by British author Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time explores the world of a mathematics genius who has trouble dealing with the real world.  

Plot and Characters

A narrator Siobhan (Elliet Malatesta) tells the story and, also, functions as a mentor and confidant to the teenager.  Christopher Boone, played brilliantly by Cody Combs, lives with his widowed father Ed (D. J. Stroud) but really inhabits an insular mental world of his own.  His “condition” is never specified but its manifestations include constant fidgeting, playing with his sweater, cowering, and rapid talking.  

Haunted by the dead dog, Christopher is, at first, accused of killing the animal and reacting aggressively when touched by the police but then decides to “break the rules” and solve the mystery.  His overbearing father and surly neighbors try to stop him but he doggedly pursues his objective.  Later, Christopher discovers that his father lied about his mother who now lives in London.  Fearful of his father, he flees to London where, after a frightening train ride, he reunites with his mother Judy (Hailey Watson).  In the end, he returns to Swindon to take a significant mathematics test.  Other cast-members include Maggie Komp, Liv Gudmundsson, Chloe Esmeier, Reagan Wildoner, Gabby Casto and Mark Taylor II.

Lead of NKU's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."
Cody Combs in NKU’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Photo credit: Tammy Cassesa Photography

Tone and Structure

Unlike the book which is written in first person, this is a play-within-a-play including a narrator who often substitutes for Christopher and others.  Only Christopher and his father play singular roles.  The remaining cast of eight play multiple characters and, occasionally play the same character as others. 

The play attempts to place the audience inside Christopher’s unique universe through a variety of technical approaches and the use of the cast as a visual reflection of his thoughts and fears.  In one scene, Christopher is backed by cast-members who appear to be creating geometric figures with their arms.  In another scene, the cast cocoons Christopher in a safe womb.  During his over stimulated train trip, the cast yells out signs, commercials, and directions that Christoher sees during his trek.  In an unusual finale after the cast has taken their bows, Christopher reappears and explains how he solved his favorite question on the math exam.

Themes of Curious Incident

There are several themes including autism, family relationships, mathematical genius, and the quest for an insecure youth to overcome his circumstances and achieve in a distracting and judgmental environment.   There is also a “murder mystery” which is merely a catalyst for Christopher’s odyssey of personal discovery.


The show is performed in the Digitorium inside Griffin Hall since the Corbett Theater is being renovated.  A major highlight is the graphics projected onto a screen which forms the backdrop for the scenes.  Designed by Jessica Ruehl, the graphics portray a variety of scenes including woodlands and parks with leaves swaying, classrooms, grocery stores, a moving train with signs flashing by, math symbols and equations, etc.  One interesting touch is a series of letters scrolled across the screen.  Several times the images quiver indicating Christopher’s uneasiness.  Costuming by Ronnie Chamberlain include British middle-class garb, police uniforms, etc. and Christopher’s sweater which acts as a shield.  The eeriness is accentuated by rainfall and haunting sounds by Jo Sanburg.  

Cast of NKU's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."
Cast of NKU’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Photo credit: Tammy Cassesa Photography

Director Christopher Ryan has done a marvelous job of coordinating and blocking all the action.  The cast remains on the sidelines and enters the action when needed.  At times, the entire cast is onstage with movements or dialogue or both in what seems like perpetual motion, all performed flawlessly.

However, at times, I had difficulty hearing due to some actors not projecting well, attempted British accents, several cast-members wearing masks and some of the sound effects.


This play won the British Olivier Award in 2013 and the Tony in 2015.  The play is, at times, difficult to watch but the end is very satisfying.  The artful blending of acting and technical pizzaz help tell the story well. Combs portrayal of Christopher is key because he respectfully shows the quirkiness, brilliance, and timidity of the character without crossing into parody or buffoonery.  Stroud as the father is duly intimidating, Watson (mother) shows a good range of emotions and Malatesta plays multiple roles convincingly.

Get Tickets to Curious Incident

So, forget about your insecurities and attempt to ride a London Underground to NKU’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  Their next production is the musical 9 To 5 which will play at The Carnegie from November 3-11. Get your tickets through the NKU Box Office HERE.