Raindrops fall and words echo every thought in Christopher’s head in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. The show depicts the storm of emotions and contradictions we live with every day. The hit play makes its appearance at Northern Kentucky University, in the school’s ‘Digitorium,’ letting the inventive play leap off the stage and immersing the audience. Of course, it all starts with a murdered dog.
Plot of Curious Incident…
Curious Incident… tells the story of Christopher, a neurodivergent autistic 15 year-old navigating a world he understands, but fears. Amidst vignettes depicting his school and home life, he faces a dilemma after finding his neighbor’s dog dead and breaking down, resulting in a short stint in jail. All is a lot for a teenager, but the character’s neurodivergence adds a layer to his situations–whether helping him exceed at math or, at times, overthinking social situations.
Living with his ill-tempered father, Ed, Christopher soon finds out his mother, whom his dad proclaimed dead, is indeed alive, and sets out to find her. The shattering immenseness of the real world dawns on him on the way. However, his reunion with his mother, Judy, grows his trust in her just in time for a math test, which he aces. The show features a stirring plot, with the main aforementioned characters complemented by an ‘everyman’ ensemble, playing multiple roles.
The performances delivered in a piece where strong commitment and understanding is needed–there’s aspects of a play-within-a-play, for example. Cody Combs plays the role of Christopher. His character oscillates between moments of genuine curiosity and panic attacks, and the sheer emotional range Combs demonstrated was incredible. Siobhan, played by Elliet Malatesta, serves as the show’s narrator and has a pitch-perfect Swindon, England accent and is fun to watch both onstage and in the ‘wings.’ She directs the play-within-the-play, and never once lets go of Christopher’s emotions.
In addition, Hailey Watson is the emotional core of the show as Judy, Christopher’s mom. Her nuanced and subtle choices tug at our heartstrings for Christopher’s mother, who wants nothing more than to connect with him again. The show’s emotional arc concludes with Judy and Ed, adeptly played by DJ Stroud, reconnecting and a bright light for Christopher’s future. The dynamics between the actors during these tender moments make them resonate even more so.
The show makes use of a smaller digitorium– think auditorium decked out with LED screens– while their main theatre gets renovated. This is the ideal show to perform in such an interesting space. Despite a steep audience rake and lower acoustics, director Christopher Ryan masterfully stages this production. It’s a tall order he handles well, from large ensemble movements to quieter, more intimate vignettes. The projections, designed by Jessica Ruehl, give excellent backdrops to the action, balancing realism with abstractism for each scene’s context.
The show has an expertly-designed mixed use of moving lights, projections, and neon-colored strip lights hung above, designed by Chanelle Dau Pino. These wash the stage in the many colors of Christopher’s mind throughout the show. The costumes, designed by Ronnie Chamberlain, also make the character transitions easy to follow with a vast array of scenes.
Curious Incident… is no light fare; in fact, during Christopher’s darker moments, it can even be hard to watch. But that discomfort coupled with the joyful ending make the story impactful. The student actors and crew members brought this colorful show to life to remind us of the many shades of human minds and experiences.
Tickets to Curious Incident…
Tickets to the remaining performances can be purchased HERE. Curious Incident of the DOg in the Night-Time runs September 29-October 8.
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