When Mark Haddon approached playwright Simon Stephens to adapt The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) for the stage, both of them doubted the bestselling novel could be adapted. It was, and it runs at The Smith Center September 19–24. Thanks to brilliant set design by Bunny Christie and the direction of Marianne Elliott, the play managed to translate some of the book’s beloved aspects to stage.
An outstanding quality is the puzzles, diagrams and mathematical equations Christopher uses to explain to the reader how his mind works. As a 15-year-old boy with Asperger’s, these are the best modes for him to communicate with his audience. The set covers the stage and three walls with a grid pattern, using strobe and projection effects illuminate, as well as audio and minimalist props. As the audience watches the plot unfold, it is unmistakably distorted through Christopher’s perceptions.
One thing that was somewhat lost or lessened in this adaptation was the depth of emotion. Adam Langdon (who plays Christopher) and his Gene Gillette (who plays Christopher’s dad) are somewhat awkward in demonstrating their characters’ abilities to empathize and connect with one another. The American stage actors’ working class English accents sounded somewhat cartoonish, having the opposite effect of tugging at the heartstrings. When Christopher’s emotions get to be too much for him, his teacher Siobhan (Maria Elena Ramirez) takes over narration of the story. While this somewhat detracts from Christopher’s narrative voice, which makes this play what it is, it did make room for more stage effects and choreography.
While not all aspects of the book are captured in the play, it offers a different rendering of Christopher’s mind. And if there’s one message the book and the play seek to relay, it’s that differences, such as Christopher’s way of thinking, are what make us unique.