Just shy of 30 years ago, Barry Levinson directed “Rain Man,” which not only received massive critical acclaim but also brought the existence of the autism spectrum into the mainstream as well as making me aware of the condition itself as well as those affected by it. Since then, other examples of those affected by this condition have ranged from Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of Arnie in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” to last year’s gripping documentary “Life, Animated.” It’s an extremely difficult subject to tackle as it effects can range from light to extremely severe, bringing on moments of extreme isolation to fits of uncontrollable emotional outbursts. In 2003, British author Mark Haddon decided to address this issue by creating a narrative that would be told through the eyes of someone dealing with a form of this condition. His novel “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” was met with both critical and commercial success and was adapted for the stage shortly thereafter, changing the format slightly and telling the story as a play-within-a-play. After winning several prestigious awards and a successful Broadway run, it now makes its way to the Winspear Opera House through January 22nd.
This is the story of Christopher John Francis Boone (Adam Langdon, who alternates the role with Benjamin Wheelwright), a 15-year- old British boy who is caught up in the investigation of the murder of Wellington, a large dog belonging to his neighbor, Mrs. Shears (Charlotte Maier). Christopher’s father, Ed (Gene Gillete), implores Christopher not to go poking his nose in other people’s business and to just drop the investigation. Ed has been raising Christopher on his own since his wife Judy (Felicity Jones Latta), fell ill and died 2 years earlier, so Christopher’s primary source of interaction relies either in his pet rat, Toby, or his teacher and mentor Siobhan (Maria Elena Ramirez), who also serves as the production’s narrator. After continuing his investigation despite his father’s demands, Christopher uncovers much more than he ever thought possible, uncovering not just who might have killed Wellington, but secrets that have been kept from him about the true nature of his past as well.
This production was a truly unique experience in that it continuously attempts to overload the senses of sight and sound. The set seems sparse, but crackles to life with vivid lighting and projection effects accompanied by sound that is cranked to almost uncomfortable levels to convey what the world must seem like to a kid whose entire life is bombarded with over-stimulation. The cast performs brilliantly and the production values are top notch in a story that is both satisfying yet painfully raw and unsettling at times. It’s a unique experience that I strongly recommend.