by Rebecca Gordils
For those of us obsessed with all forms of art, two of our worlds colliding can be a very rare and exciting experience. So is the case when I went to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime on Broadway just a few nights ago.
Based on the novel, the play followed the story of an autistic teenager with a brilliantly mathematical mind, Christopher, and his plights in trying to solve a few “problems” that come up in his life. The first of the problems to arrive is the murder of his neighbor’s dog, Wellington.
The first part of this show that truly captivates its audience is its set. Every square foot of the stage and set is outlined in thousands of small lights and surrounded by intense speakers. There are also hidden cabinets, drawers, and compartments in the walls and floor for the characters to pull props out of that almost seem to appear out of nowhere.
Even stairs and escalators and trains were generated from pull-out sections of the set on the back wall, the moving floor, and actively use moving projection images and sound effects.
The rest of the set was generally simplistic. There was no furniture, only a few large white blocks, each with a primary number painted on the top right. They were used to emulate furniture pieces. Homes were created using the lights as outlines and projection images.
Light and math played a large part in this production. The entire space was set up like a piece of graph paper, forming a coordinate plane with axes labeled “space” and “time.” Throughout the story, they would use lights, projection images, and chalk on the board-like walls and floor to illustrate certain aspects of the story.
The story progresses through Christopher’s life as his father reveals that he was the one who killed Wellington, and Christopher realizes that his mother isn’t actually dead and goes to London to find her. This proves to be difficult because of his disability and anxiety when it comes to speaking to strangers. He uses counting as a calming tool and inspirationally succeeds in finding his mother.
Christopher is brilliant when it comes to math, and towards the end he takes a college-level exam and gets a perfect score, in spite of great mental exhaustion due to the events of the play. He feels that because he went to London on his own, and received this perfect score, he can do anything.
After the curtain call, Christopher comes back out (through another magical opening in the floor) and explains one of the questions on his math test in which he used the Pythagorean Theorem. He is still in character, and is so proud of himself that he calls for confetti, which he happily receives.
This book was one of my favorite books, and has now become one of my favorite plays, one I’m certain should win a Tony Award. If you haven’t had the time to open your mind to another way of thinking, purchase tickets and let yourself escape for two hours.
It’s well worth it.