“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – June 22, 2017


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

It’s nice that ASU Gammage’s Broadway series schedules an occasional play along with the musicals it usually features.  But plays aren’t designed for large venues like ASU Gammage so they get lost in such big theaters.  Such is the case with the final show of the current season, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” that won the 2015 Tony Award as best play.

It is an intimate expose on Christopher Boone, the play’s 15-year-old protagonist.  He’s also a mathematical genius suffering from autism that manifests itself in daydreaming, hallucinations, and disregard of reality.  He becomes easily confused and bewildered because he can’t grasp other people’s emotions.  For this play to work, it must become an in-the-face exploration of this challenging medical condition.

The plot concerns who killed a neighbor’s dog, a situation Christopher decides to investigate.  The play makes it clear how Christopher contributed to this mystery as it explores his state-of-mind.  The audience must be pulled into this examination but in the vast ASU Gammage confines, it’s difficult to make audiences believe Christopher’s predicament.  Without becoming immersed in Christopher’s situation, the play, in Simon Stephens adaptation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 best-selling novel, becomes talky.

In order to help audiences grasp Christopher’s unusual circumstances, director Marianne Elliott and scenic designer Bunny Christie create a fascinating theatrical environment that allow observers into Christopher’s mind so they understand him.  In a smaller Broadway theater, the audience was easily pulled into Christopher’s plight.

Fortunately, the able touring cast did everything possible to help the audience understand Christopher’s situation.  Adam Langdon’s carefully modulated Christopher is exquisite both emotionally and physically as the actor conveys the character’s frustration at facing his dismal medical situation.  Gene Gillette’s Ed, Christopher’s tortured father, sometimes controls his irritation but at other times reacts detestably.  Spunky Kathy McCafferty plays Christopher’s neighbor Mrs. Shears who owns the dog that is killed.  In smaller roles, the rest of the cast is outstanding.

While one must commend ASU Gammage for scheduling this challenging, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” would have been better introduced here by a professional theater performing in a smaller theater.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” suffers because the venue diminishes the play.  It continues through Sunday, June 25.  To order tickets, call the ASU Gammage box office at 480-965-3434 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: B