When Christopher John Francis Boone discovers Wellington’s body, he is immediately the prime suspect. But he is innocent and sets out to find the real killer.
However, this is not a typical noir detective story. Christopher is a 15-year-old boy, clearly on the Autism spectrum although that is never defined, for whom the truth is black and white, which brings its own set of problems in a world of infinite gray.
Lamar University’s production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” opened this past weekend and is a must-see. Aside from the play itself, adapted by Simon Stephens from the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon, the acting and staging is excellent.
While the entire cast, most of whom play multiple parts and spend most of the play on the stage as sort of “moving props,” is strong, the four leads are worthy of special praise.
Daelen Fox is a tour-de-force as Christopher, in a role that could easily fall into caricature in less sure hands. The audience gets to see the world as he sees it — the things that are obvious to us are obscured by Christopher’s literalism. The real strength of the performance is the consistency, as Fox does not waver in his depiction of a boy trying to make sense of an increasingly senseless world.
Ed Seymour, as Christopher’s father, Ed, gives a particularly strong performance. He makes us understand the character’s motivations as he embodies the aforementioned grey-ness of the human condition. Ed’s struggles in dealing with the challenges of Christopher’s condition, as well as his own emotions, demand our sympathies, even when we may judge him for his choices.
Chloe Sullivan’s Siobhan is the narrative soul of the play. As Christopher’s teacher, she is narrates his “book” and also offers him guidance. If one were being glib, one might argue that she is the Jiminy Cricket to Christopher’s Pinocchio, but it would not be too much of a stretch to do so. Emily Buesing does an excellent job as Judy, but to talk more would be to divulge spoilers and you will find none here. Suffice to say, Judy, like Ed, is complex and Buesing handles the role beautifully.
Guest director Carolyn Johnson helmed last season’s “Mauritius,” which was easily in the top-few Lamar productions I have seen in the past quarter century, so it is no shock that “Curious Incident” is deftly handled. The smooth choreography of the cast as they move from scene to scene, all against a set that is simply a plain black and white grid, gives the play dynamism and fluidity.
The railway station scene, with its crowded concourse, lit up signs and constant announcements perfectly captures the sensory overload to which we have become immune.
As someone who grew up traveling by rail, I especially loved the physicality of the cast riding the train. The movements were perfect, and it is exactly that sort of attention to detail that elevates a production.
The play is slyly funny at times, but is also thought provoking and moving. As we see the world through Christopher’s eyes — a world that he, as someone who cannot lie, will never truly understand — the audience gets an insight into ourselves. What if we could never lie? What if we assumed everything was just as it appears to be? How would we cope in that world? There is a purity in Christopher’s condition, but that is what makes him an outlier in a world where honesty is a struggle.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” runs one more weekend, Oct. 11, 12 and 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Lamar University Studio Theatre. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for faculty, staff and seniors, and $7 for LU students.
For more, visit lamar.edu/theatre.