Sunday, 28 December 2014

Marianne Elliott's production of Simon Stephen's dramatization of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME on Broadway

     I had seen this production in London last year and have reviewed it here (See under June, 2013). It is still a show everyone should see.
     Playwright Simon Stephens and director Marianne Elliott have produced a powerful stage realization of Mark Haddon's novel. The book itself, like Salinger's THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, is a classic tale of a troubled adolescent boy surrounded by mendacious grownups. Fifteen-year-old Christopher is somewhere on the autism spectrum. He cannot be touched. He's also something of a math genius. When a neighbor's dog is killed, Christopher becomes obsessed with discovering the murderer. Solving the mystery leads Christopher, who cannot tell a lie, into a web of adult weakness and deceit. The people around Christopher have their flaws, but Christopher is not easy to live with. We can sympathize with Christopher's mother's boyfriend when he shouts "Do you ever think of anyone but yourself?" Christopher's parents love the boy, but such love isn't easy.
     Haddon's novel is narrated by Christopher. The challenge of any stage production is that it must objectify a very subjective narrative. Stephens builds on the conceit of the narrative Christopher has written, which his school has turned into a theater piece. Christopher may not like theater -- actors are liars -- but the conceit allows Stephens and Elliott to turn Christopher's experience into powerful drama. A small company of actors play multiple roles to create the frightening world Christopher inhabits. Bunny Christie's set, basically a box with a grid design, Finn Ross's videos and Paule Constable's lighting create theater magic.
     The New York cast is as good as the London cast I saw. Alex Sharp makes Christopher more prickly and less sweet than Joe Gibbons, his London counterpart at my performance. That's all to the better. Christopher is probably the most emotionally and physically demanding role in contemporary theater and Sharp's energy and focus are admirable. Everyone else in the ensemble matches their London counterparts.
     It was nice to see so many teenage boys with their families at my performance. Haddon's novel is required reading in England. Clearly it is also known here in the U.S. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME is the best thing on Broadway right now. I'm glad to see that it is a success.
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME. Ethel Barrymore Theatre. December 26, 2014.  

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