|left to right: Bitsy Bidwell, Christine Goode, Nicholas Main, Jamie Flynn Keenan-deVargas and Rebecca Rogers. Photo by Kuo-Hao Lo.|
Friday, November 22, 2019
A mesmerizing show at South Puget Sound Community College
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
reviewed by Alec Clayton
Under the direction of Lauren Love, the theater at South Puget Sound Community College has become one of the region’s premiere theaters, presenting challenging and professional-level shows one after another. Witness last year’s two-part Angels in America and earlier this year, Fun Home, both of which were the talk of Olympia’s theater realm. And now comes the quirky, innovative and emotionally captivating The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time based on the prize-winning novel by Mark Haddon, adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens and directed at SPSCC by Love.
Although not clearly stated in the script, 15-year-old Christopher (Nicholas Main) is clearly a young man on the autism spectrum. Haddon wrote, “Curious Incident is not a book about Asperger's... if anything it's a novel about difference, about being an outsider.”
When upset, Christopher moans loudly and often lies down in a fetal position. He is a math whiz and loves science, but can have difficulty relating to other people. And he never lies. One of his personal rules is things happen in patterns, which is illustrated with his speech and with the light patterns that are beautifully projected on the screen at the back of the stage throughout to create an other-worldly atmosphere — projections by Joe Griffith and lighting design by Olivia Burlingame.
The story is narrated by Christopher, augmented by his mentor, Siobhan (Jesse Morrow) reading from Christopher’s personal journal, which he calls a murder mystery novel. At one point, she even wants to produce a play from it starring Christopher, an idea which he vehemently rejects.
The play opens two years after Christopher’s mother disappeared from his life. His father, Ed (Tom Sanders) explained that she was hospitalized and then died of a heart attack, which turns out to be not true. Christopher discovers that a neighbor’s dog has been killed with a garden fork, and he sets out to solve the mystery of who killed the dog. In the process of trying to solve the mystery, he interacts with neighbors, assaults a police officer and is arrested but let go, finds unexpected things out things about his mother and father and discovers much of importance about himself and his abilities.
The cast is a mixture of SPSCC theater majors and local actors. All but Sanders, Main, Morrow and Shannon Agostinelli as Christopher’s mother, Judy, play multiple roles — policemen, a street lady, a preacher, and others. Some of them even play animals and a machine.
Main does a remarkable job of portraying Christopher, and Sanders and Morrow are outstanding, as are Agostinelli and the entire ensemble cast.
Despite heavy personal and family drama, The Curious Incident is a fun show filled with a delicious mix of comedy and tragedy, and it is technically marvelous.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 24, $16, free to SPSCC students, faculty and staff, Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts Main Stage, main entrance to South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia, 360.753.8586.