Projections of trees scattered across a stage. A dog lying dead under deep blue washes of sky. A 15-year-old boy kneeling next to the body. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s about to find himself on a path full of revelations in Chantilly High School’s production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
Based on Mark Haddon’s 2003 mystery novel of the same name, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” premiered in August 2012 at the Royal National Theatre in London. The play, adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens, garnered widespread acclaim, winning seven Olivier Awards, a record-breaking number at the time. The show follows 15-year-old Christopher Boone, a mathematical genius who falls on the autism spectrum, as he investigates the death of his neighbor’s dog, Wellington.
The ensemble of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” brought an authentic, mature tone to the production. Whether mimicking the rush of a train station with an effortless flow or throwing Boone dirty looks when he asked about Wellington, the ensemble grounded the show with realism.
Jack Wolff put effort and care into his portrayal of autism as Boone. Wolff carefully chose different movements to portray different emotions that Boone was having. Never breaking character even in long stretches of scenes, Wolff stood out in his commitment. In the scene where he discovered his mother was alive, Wolff maintained a frantic vehemence, scrambling his way over piles of letters and reading them with shocked eyes. Supporting Boone along his journey was Alex Lesnik’s Siobhan. Lesnik’s calm, steady stance allowed her to serve as Boone’s anchor in the world. Speaking to Boone in steady tones and an unwavering accent, Lesnik brought an unparalleled level of stability to her character.
Ella Ostlund’s portrayal of Boone’s mother, Judy, showed exceptional range. In her monologues during the first act of the play, Ostlund painted a romantic picture of Judy, confessing to Boone with elegant movements and a pleading voice that she only thought she was doing what was right for him. As the show progressed, Ostlund expertly depicted a flawed, no longer romanticized version of Judy. Stepping away from Boone when he was distressed to calm herself down and snapping at him in a harsh, gritted voice, Ostlund added layers of complexity to her role.
Different tech elements served to illustrate Boone’s thoughts and worries. A minimalistic, modular set, designed by Lucy Sherrier and Peyton Dunham, adapted to the needs of each scene. Eight stools served as the backbone for the show, becoming seats, benches, and trains as needed. The flexibility of the set design was highlighted when Boone imagined himself in outer space, as ensemble blocking merged with the set design to create the effect of Boone hovering and rolling in midair. The lighting design, created by Sam Ryu, brought intensity to integral moments in the show. Background lighting silhouetted certain actors, symbolizing their strangeness to Boone. Silhouettes also added tension to other scenes, such as the scene in which Ed (Will Sanfilippo) and Judy argued as Boone curled into himself. Clean, crisp spotlights brought characters to the foreground while still allowing their performances to remain understated and subtle.
With nuance, heart, and profound insights into how we treat each other, the cast and crew of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” crafted a show that reminds us that, despite our differences, we are all capable of amazing things.
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