Sunday, October 28, 2018

Review of Steppenwolf for Young Adults' The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It was by Simon Stephens based on the novel by Mark Haddon. It was directed by Jonathan Berry. It was about a boy named Christopher (Terry Bell) who is in his early teens in a town called Swindon. One day he discovers that his neighbor Mrs. Shears' (Eunice Woods) dog Wellington has been killed. He decides he must investigate who has killed Wellington and along the way discovers his family secrets and how strong he is and how he is capable of so much more than he was told he was. It is about family, consequences, and perspective. I think this was a really beautiful show. I really loved the story and character work.

Christopher's discovery of his mother's letters was absolutely heartbreaking and beautifully staged. He built a wall around himself with the trains and blocks and just curled up on the floor. I think everyone has felt like that and has wanted to do what Christopher did but most of us are afraid that we can't act that way. How calmly he executed it and how emotionless he seemed after his whole idea of his mother had been blown apart was heartbreaking and really well done. The mother (Rebecca Spence) was a very complex character. She seemed to love Christopher so much, but her decisions made it seem like she didn't. Most of the people in this show don't make completely rational decisions, and that makes these characters interesting and easy to relate to. Christopher's father (Cedric Mays) also makes very irrational decisions about Christopher's mother. He lies to Christopher to lessen the blow, but it ends up hurting him more than if he'd just been told the truth. Even Mrs. Alexander (Meg Thalken), who seems very reasonable and to know her way around a conversation, sometimes will mess up and say something she shouldn't have said.

I really loved the storytelling choices in this show. The way the story flows together and the movement choices (by Dan Plehal) were lovely. One of my favorite moments of movement combined with text was when Christopher was in the train station reading all the signs and the ensembles voices were all overlapping. The movement is getting faster and they are walking around him, and Christopher is getting more and more uncomfortable until Siobhan (Caroline Neff), Christopher's mentor at school, stops it all and tells him that all he has to do is think about each step as he walks. It is a very touching and sweet moment between Siobhan and Christopher as well as a visually stunning moment. I also thought it was very compelling how Christopher's story that he made out of the murder of Wellington became a play that we were watching. It would go between the story and the rehearsal process for the play, but at first it isn't clear that that is what is happening. The reveal that it is a play within a play drew me in because it showed the process of making the play and of working with Christopher and also how different people in his life are playing roles in the play. He has very strong opinions about who can play whom. Like when Reverend Peters (Christopher M. Walsh) wants to play the policeman, and Christopher says, "You're too old to play a policeman." That was one of my favorite lines from the rehearsal scenes because of how perfectly it shows how unfiltered Christopher is as a director.

I really love the idea of math in this show and how it is worked into Christopher's thinking process. It also contributes to one of my favorite comedic moments in the show. Because this whole show is from Christopher's perspective narrated to us by Siobhan, it is how he sees things instead of how people see him. I really like how when he is riding past things on the train he doesn't look at them and say, "there are some cows, there are some houses, there are some horses." He has to figure out the exact number of them and he can figure that out in a split second. I find it fascinating to think about his thought process compared to mine and notice the similarities and differences. He thinks about how everything is connected, which is how I think about things, but I don't think of groups of things in numbers. I think of the features of the things. In the middle of the show Christopher wants to explain how he solved a math problem, but Siobhan tells him that whoever wants to stay after the play and hear the solution can, but that most people will find it boring. But when he came out and explained it at the end, he was so elated to be explaining math to us--and he made it such a spectacle by using lights, sound, projections and even confetti cannons--that it made me want the show never to end so I could spend more time with Christopher and learn more math (which I never thought I would say).

People who would like this show are people who like multi-textured mysteries, complex characters, and celebratory equation confetti. I loved this show very much. I think it is absolutely beautiful and funny and overall an awesome experience.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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