By JOAN TADDIE
When you walk into a theater looking for your seats and you find yourself suddenly immobile because you are staring at a big, white, dead dog stabbed by a pitchfork laying downstage center, you know you will soon be caught up in a unique and powerful play.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” was written by Simon Stephens and adapted from a 2003 novel by Mark Haddon and is currently running through November 6th at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
This splendid National Theatre production features Adam Langdon as Christopher Boone, a young man who has an astute mathematical mind, is fascinated by space travel and the universe, and views everything in minute detail. “I see everything,” says Christopher. “Most other people are lazy.”Although the play is never specific, it suggests that Christopher has an autism spectrum disorder that presents him with many challenges, including interfering with his understanding of human emotion. Adam Langdon is brilliant in this role. He embraces not only the exhausting physicality of his character, but the mind, the heart, and the strength of his will to be who he is. “I always tell the truth,” Christopher repeats throughout the play. (Benjamin Wheelwright alternates in this role.)
A tight, polished ensemble portrays multiple characters in Christopher’s life as he tries to solve two mysteries: 1. Who killed Wellington, the dog? 2. What happened to his mother?
Christopher’s father is a single parent who loves his son and tries his best to deal with Christopher’s gifts and the challenges that accompany them. As the father, Gene Gillette gives one of the most emotional and heart-wrenching performances of the night as he struggles and often fails to find ways to be a good father to his son.
Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher, is the first voice the audience hears. Strong, yet soothing, she reads Christopher’s own words from the book he is writing about his life. Played by Maria Elena Ramirez, she remains the cool, dependable voice that Christopher, as well as the audience, yearns for in the chaos of Christopher’s life as he searches for the key to how to behave and survive in society.Christopher’s mother Judy loves her son, but cannot cope with the demands of Christopher’s disorder. Her solution is to leave her husband Ed and her son and move to London with her neighbor’s husband. There is no reason why the audience should like this character, but Felicity Jones Latta in the role gives a strong performance, convincing them that she does love her son and only does what she thinks is best for Christopher.
Tiffany Rachelle Stewart, a member of the ensemble, must be recognized for her spot-on comedic moments that are most definitely needed, especially in the second act. Also, the choreography by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly is a creative and interesting touch to the blocking of the scenes and well executed by the ensemble.
The technical elements in this production are insane. The set is a cube with black grid lines on all the walls and the floor. Flashing lights, sounds, projections and moveable white blocks allowes the audience to experience Christopher’s brain when he faces a problem. The innovative director of “War Horse,” Marianne Elliot, works her directorial magic with this show and pulls the audience into the cube with the cast and the technical effects. She often has members of the cast in the audience saying their lines, giving the audience a feeling of intimacy and connection with the characters. At the end of the production, Christopher says triumphantly, “I can do these things! Can I do anything?” Something for society to think about.Presented by the Fairwinds Broadway in Orlando, this is a first national tour of the play, which won five Tony Awards, including best play; six Drama Desk Awards, including outstanding play; five Outer Critics Circle Awards including outstanding new Broadway play; and a Drama League Award.
A final note: After the curtain call, do not leave if you would like to experience one more amazing theatrical moment in this amazing production!
SIDE O’ GRITS: “THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME” runs through Sunday at the Dr. Phillips Center is at 445 S. Magnolia Avenue, Orlando, FL. Tickets start at $33.75. Call 844-513-2014 or visit DrPhillipsCenter.org. Online and phone ticket purchases are subject to handling fees.