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SOME THOUGHTS: "THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME"

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(This write-up is more an exploration of my thoughts on the show and less an official review, so I have identified it as such.)

I was surprised by the amount of humor in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." When chatting with lead actor Adam Langdon after Tuesday night's performance, he confirmed that people often are surprised. But the first several lines of the show ease the audience into main character Christopher Boone's personality and, hopefully, lets them know it's okay to laugh Langdon told me.

FAQ

‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’

WHEN — 7 p.m. today; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 & 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $35-$74

INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org

FYI — This show contains some explicit language, brief discussion of sexual content, and a visibly dead dog. Not recommended for young children.

Due to loud, abrupt noises and light and fog effects, this is not identified as a sensory-friendly show.

When I asked him, "But where is the line between laughing at Christopher, and laughing at just the situation or the writing?" his response was, "I don't know that there is a line."

And that was the interesting part of "Curious" for me -- because the vast majority of the theater I've seen is entertainment for entertainment's sake. Not that "Curious" doesn't have immense entertainment value, but there was a lot more for me to digest than usual.

Christopher falls on the autism spectrum. The story never uses that word, but he exhibits many telling ticks and traits of someone on the spectrum. That doesn't mean he represents everyone's experience with autism, though, which was something Langdon made very clear to me in his preview interview for What's Up.

"If you've met one person on the spectrum, you've met one person on the spectrum," he said. We discussed how some of Christopher's behaviors are from the play's source material -- Mark Haddon's novel of the same name -- and some are acting choices that set Langdon's Christopher apart from other interpretations.

So, knowing the delicate nature of portraying a person with a social condition tells you going in that not everyone will be happy with the representation, no matter how respectful its intentions.

That being said, from the perspective of someone with no experience knowing or interacting with anyone on the spectrum, I think "Curious" is transcendent in its ability to give someone with no point of reference at least a vague idea of what life might be like to a person living on the spectrum.

Even just a glance at any photo or trailer for the show reveals stage work that is incredibly unique. I've never seen anything like it. The floor and three walls of the stage are all a dark, empty grid. This blank slate allows the audience to traverse Christopher's mind. We see lights and shapes as he sees them; we hear the cacophony that is often rolling around in his head, overwhelming him to the point of immobility. And the sensory overload is overwhelming for the audience at times, too. Because the purpose is to make you feel what Christopher is feeling.

I think it's a very difficult and sensitive task to approach representation of any condition or disability without either seeking the audience's pity, or setting them up to laugh at the character. But for me, "Curious" nails it. Christopher Boone faces a challenge in life that many in the audience do not. But he does not need your pity. And his blunt interactions with others and literal interpretations can be funny. And that's okay.

I am aware not everyone is pleased with Christopher's representation of the condition. And when I mentioned this during intermission, the man next to me offered the thought, "I can see where some behaviors [Christopher exhibits] might feel over the top. But maybe [the creators] felt like for the sake of the storytelling, if they weren't pronounced, the audience could miss it." Either way, Christopher has extraordinary attributes that make him who he his. And although you might be able to empathize with the frustrations or misunderstandings of the characters around him, opening yourself up to the way Christopher sees the world and the people in it makes for an enlightening and perhaps somewhat curious journey.

Adventure, mystery, charm and humor all combine in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" to offer an extremely entertaining, stimulating and inspiring piece of theater.

NAN What's Up on 04/20/2017

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