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7/18/14

Okay You Guys, Now I'm REALLY Excited for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Prior to last night, I was nervous about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Or more specifically, it’s place in the Broadway cannon for the upcoming season, given that expectations come in hot for all of these UK transports. And The Curious Incident..., with it’s sold-out run, seven Oliviers, and it literally bringing a theatre’s roof crashing down, has the potential to collapse (metaphorically-speaking) upon arrival. An unlikely result - I mean, seven Oliviers, argument over - but Broadway does have a penchant for looking away from not-America entries and The Curious Incident... is a British National Treasure.

Now that I saw a re-broadcast of the National Theatre Live taping, I can assure you that we’re fine. I mean, they’re fine; The Curious Incident…has got this. I go to the cinema about once-twice a week and I can’t recall the last time I got so invested in what is happening on screen that my body sprawled out over two seats and the aisle-way, so wowed and feels-ey I was.

Based on Mark Haddon’s original book, The Curious Incident…is about a teenager named Christopher, who mentally-speaking, is a little off-center (think highly-functional Autism), but possesses extraordinary math skills. Upon the murder of a neighbor’s dog, and against his single father’s best wishes, he sets out in his hometown to find the culprit and is in for a lot more then he bargained for. That last point is quite an understatement.

Talk about high-concept, no? Well, concept meets stellar execution with the fine work done by the creative. Bunny Christie and Finn Ross’s stage is done up to look like graphing paper, which is so primitive, it is kind of genius. It lights up too! Which provides a dual purpose when combined with Paule Constable’s lighting, as Christopher’s walking paths and houses and math problems and even an escalator have their grids/silhouettes lit up on the floor to help evoke them. I MEAN, YOU GUYS!

Of course, having Steven Hoggett doing choreography for you can only be a gift with a big-ass bow on top. And here, him and Scott Graham craft movements and transitions so beautifully, it stands on its own as an “art in motion” exhibit. And with Marianne Elliott’s flawless work here, she is my new director crush. The Curious Incident…is not as pared-down as, say, Peter and the Starcatcher, but my reaction was very similar. Staged in the round and utilizing the team’s contributions, imagination is running rampant with the open space as houses are lit up and gridded off, the fast-paced London and Swinton environments are brought to life, we are brought inside the MINDSET OF A UNIQUE, FAST-THINKING, SIGNALLY-OVERWHELMED INDIVIDUAL…you know, no big deal or anything. I was taken aback by select moments of Elliott’s cleverness and charm; her overall vision for the show can be described as part-Alex Timbers (the use of choreography and visuals) and part-John Tiffany (the use of lighting and sound). And lovelies? I AM HERE FOR HER AND ALL OF THAT!

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t be too concerned with the casting of this transfer, especially when the rest of the production is rendered so well. BUT…it is a shame Luke Treadaway isn’t reprising his roll as Christopher, whom from the get-go, he grabs the audience’s heart, takes it on an exciting and emotional journey, and returns it three hours later completely satisfied. Never leaving the stage and having to play a teenager with Autistic and Aspergers-like tendencies (although either disorder was not stated outright), Treadaway enthralled me with a tour-de-force, committed performance, never once crossing the proverbial line of being too much and sucking the air out of the room, yet never lapsing into a vague, “I’ll just bullshit my way through this” imitation.

Some of the best acting I have seen all year (or most years, for that matter) came when Christopher is getting undressed by his father in a meticulously slow-moving sequence - Treadaway doesn’t say a word for several minutes, and yet, a tidal wave of emotion overcame his face, his eyes, and his posture, to the point where I was internally ugly-sobbing. In what could have been a throwaway moment or one that wouldn’t stack up against some of the show's more dramatic scenes, it was so subtle, so moving and the energy of the theatre silenced as our eyes are glued to Treadaway’s masterclass of acting. When your overall performance elicits a, “HOW does he DO that so many times in a week?” reaction, a response I’ve only worked up several times amongst the last eight years of theatre-going, that is how you know you were watching a star-turn up on that stage screen.

Don’t worry though; I have all the faith in Alexander Sharp, who will be Broadway’s Christopher this Fall. The last time I can recall a young-ish Julliard graduate making his Broadway debut in a high-profile gig was a gent by the name of Seth Numrich...and he turned out well for everyone (COME BACK TO BROADWAY SETH!).

Sorry, got carried away there…more then I already was, that is. Anyways, The Curious Incident…will stick with me for weeks, if not months, until October rolls around. And with a ticket already purchased, I can’t wait to see this Broadway production IN PERSON and get all tingly and exciting again. When you leave a show (or broadcast) excited to see the show again, that is when you know a show is soooooo good, that a one-time visit and its memories just aren’t enough.


Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

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