The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’ is a theatre experience quite unlike any seen before.
In October of 2014, the play opened on Broadway after much success in the West End of London, England. Located at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, the stage is designed to function and appear as a grid, each line brightly lit, creating an imaginative space. During the interim of the performance the stage reveals hidden cabinets, concealing various, crucial objects utilized throughout the performance and trapdoors for performers to escape through. Adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens, based on the book by Mark Haddon, the play tells the story of a 15-year-old boy, Christopher, described as “a brilliantly talented mathematician with some behavioral difficulties.” He is on a quest to discover who murdered the neighbor’s beloved dog, against his fathers’ wishes. During the investigation, he discovers more than he initially anticipated and retreats into a world entirely his own design, both extraordinary and unfamiliar. Christopher exhibits quirky traits, such as an aversion to human touch, affinity for certain colors and blatant rhetoric. These traits don’t make the character off-putting, but rather, inviting. It is enrapturing to see a character that remains so honest whilst surrounded by deception. His heightened consciousness and view of the world around him is the only truth that the audience is privy to. This results in the audience becoming a version of Christopher, not only wishing to find the culprit behind the murder, but also discovering profound details about themselves, more specifically, their empathy for others. This awakening is a direct response to bearing witness to an emotional, intimate and beautifully crafted production.
I saw the show on a Saturday matinee with traffic bustling outside on the Manhattan streets, crowds spilling into the streets, traffic lights working on timers and people chattering on their cell phones. Meetings at 3pm. 12.98 for cab fare. 4 blocks away to the nearest subway station. It is interesting and appropriate that so much of our existence is rooted in numbers and time. What we choose to do in the hours of the day are entirely up to our discretion. Ironically for the duration of this play you lose the concept of time and are inevitably captivated by the story’s transcendence. You are, for a moment in time, more concerned with someone else’s narrative than your own.
The soundtrack for the play, original music by Adrian Sutton, is a symphony of whimsical, techno music that accompanies the action onstage and helps to emphasize Christopher’s mindset in the different scenarios he encounters. For example, the track “Station” is a cacophonous flurry of music that brings the listener closer to the chaos of a London train station, while ‘Sleepwalking’ conveys a melancholy, alien state of existence. The music creates an atmosphere for the audience much like the stage direction does. One evening, I chose to fall asleep listening to the soundtrack and dreamt of floating numbers and brightly lit boxes. I awoke with the notion that if my dreams could be that remarkable, someday perhaps over time and space my reality could supersede it. How very curious indeed.