Written by Chloe Campbell
From Aug. 30 to Sept. 22, 2019, the Hippodrome Theatre in Downtown Gainesville hosted “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
The five-time Tony Award-winning play was written by Simon Stephens and directed by Ralf Remshardt, a professor of theatre at the University of Florida. Based on the 2003 best-selling young-adult novel of the same name by Mark Haddon, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” or “The Curious Incident,” has been performed on both the West End in London and Broadway in New York.
“The Curious Incident” follows Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy with autism, as he attempts to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbor’s dog, both to find justice for the victim and to escape the blame himself. Despite protests from his widowed father, Ed, Christopher sets out to find answers. However, as Christopher digs into the secrets of his neighbors, he discovers truths about his own family that change their lives forever. “The Curious Incident” is a “play within a play” as Christopher’s journal, which documents these life-altering events, is turned into a play by his teacher Siobhan. Thus, Christopher’s perspective gives the audience an in-depth and personal view of these events..
The Hippodrome’s mainstage is a small, yet intimate theatre and I was lucky enough to have seats in the second row for “The Curious Incident.” During the performance, I felt as though I were directly in the play alongside the 10 cast members, who played a total of 35 characters on stage. Kyle Brumley, an actor from Atlanta played Christopher. Brumley appearing through an agreement between the Hippodrome and the Actor’s Equity Association. With a performance equal parts awe-inspiring and heartbreaking, Brumley displayed both the unmatched intelligence and social unawareness of those on the autism spectrum. From wry asides paired with a sarcastic grin to agonizing minutes of uncontrollable sobbing on the floor, Brumley was amazing.
The costumes in the play were simple, but they suited the multiple costume changes demanded by each actor. When the actors assumed the role of another character in the scene, a costume (and sometimes accent) change accompanied the shift, as to avoid confusion. At one point in the play, actress J. Moliere played the role of an ATM machine by peeking her head through a recess in the stage wall and speaking in an automated tone. The set design simply accommodated the may setting changes throughout the play. Built-in lighting elements outlined doorways and floor plans in Christopher’s home, a subway track, and even the English shoreline as it collided with the ocean. The director also used of audiovisual effects, such as recorded sounds of a subway station to orient the audience in the new setting.
During the after-the-credits bonus scene, Christopher breaks the fourth wall as he teaches the audience how to do a math equation, utilizing laser lights, inspirational music, and echoing vocals. It felt like learning math at a rock concert. I highly recommend “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” a story which TIME Magazine has called “eye-opening, life-affirming and unmissable.” The play effectively showcases the raw and emotional journey of a young boy with autism and it opens your eyes to how others see the world. I believe it is important to share and try to understand the perspectives of those, like Christopher, who do not often have a voice in society. In my opinion, “The Curious Incident” is a play worth seeing a second, third, and tenth time. Unfortunately, the play will not be heading back to Gainesville anytime soon. In the meantime, I am adding “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon to my reading list and I encourage everyone else to do the same.