Several years ago I read a fascinating novel, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time“. Here is a review of the book from Publishers Weekly:
Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of this revelatory novel, relaxes by groaning and doing math problems in his head, eats red-but not yellow or brown-foods and screams when he is touched. Strange as he may seem, other people are far more of a conundrum to him, for he lacks the intuitive “theory of mind” by which most of us sense what’s going on in other people’s heads. When his neighbor’s poodle is killed and Christopher is falsely accused of the crime, he decides that he will take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and track down the killer. As the mystery leads him to the secrets of his parents’ broken marriage and then into an odyssey to find his place in the world, he must fall back on deductive logic to navigate the emotional complexities of a social world that remains a closed book to him. In the hands of first-time novelist Haddon, Christopher is a fascinating case study and, above all, a sympathetic boy: not closed off, as the stereotype would have it, but too open-overwhelmed by sensations, bereft of the filters through which normal people screen their surroundings. Christopher can only make sense of the chaos of stimuli by imposing arbitrary patterns (“4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don’t speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don’t eat my lunch and Take No Risks”). His literal-minded observations make for a kind of poetic sensibility and a poignant evocation of character. Though Christopher insists, “This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them,” the novel brims with touching, ironic humor. The result is an eye-opening work in a unique and compelling literary voice.
It was, as the review notes, an eye-opening look at how the brain of an autistic teenager works. It was a great book, but when I heard they had made a stage play out of it, I wasn’t sure how they would pull off the parts of the book that described how the main character’s mind worked.
Well last night I had a chance to find out, as we went to see the play at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. And all I can say is that the producers, directors, actors, set designers, choreographers, lighting and sound technicians, and everyone involved with the play succeeded beyond my wildest imagination.
The set itself is perhaps the most imaginative one I have ever seen; I can’t imagine the technology and creativity that went into designing such a masterpiece.
As I was leaving the play, I thought to myself, “that set had to win some Tony Award”, and so today I checked to see if indeed it had.
Well little did I know that the play has won several awards. “Curious” first appeared on stage in London in 2012, and went on to win seven Laurence Olivier awards (analogous to the Tony awards), including Best Play, Best Sound Design, Best Lighting Design, and Best Set Design. It then came to Broadway in 2014, and went on to win five Tony awards, including Best Play, Best Lighting Design of a Play, and Best Scenic Design of a Play.
It was reassuring to know that I was not alone in being impressed with the set and the lighting.
While it certainly does not do justice to seeing it live, here’s a brief video about the play that may give you some sense of the set and lighting.
So congratulations to the cast and crew of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for a job well done, and thank you for sharing your talents for all of us to enjoy. And thank you to the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music for hosting the play; we are looking forward to The King and I!