Photo credit: Amy Blackman, Nick LaMedica. Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Book by Simon Stephens
Based on the novel by Mark Haddon
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis kicks off its 51st season with the fascinating adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Winner of five Tonys including Best Play, Best Direction, and Best Actor in a play, Curious is a gut-wrenching look at life through a very different set of eyes—perfect for the discerning theatre community of St. Louis.
Set in Swindon, England, the story follows Christopher (Nick LaMedica), a 15-year-old boy who doesn’t like the colors yellow or brown, doesn’t like to be touched, always tells the truth, and is a mathematical genius. While it is never said, Christopher could be affected by autism or Asperger’s Syndrome—he certainly does have a myriad of character peculiarities. His teacher, Siobhan (Kathleen Wise), serves as a narrator of sorts reading a book written by Christopher which details the plot points of the story.
The story has numerous twists and turns including the assumed death of his mother Judy (Amy Blackman), the emotional turmoil caused by his father Ed (Jimmy Kieffer), a harrowing trip to London, the taking of his A-Level Maths exam, and the mystery of who killed his neighbor’s dog. The dog murder serves as the common thread and a focal point for Christopher. Please excuse the vagueness of the synopsis, but the charm of this play is how it unfolds and how the story is told. Well, that and allowing the audience to walk around in someone else’s neuroses for two hours.
While the Rep acquired the rights to this production, they were told they could not stage it as it was on Broadway. The Rep had to totally create a whole new world for Christopher. Director/Choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge surpassed this challenge by creating a transformative piece of theatre.
Milgrom Dodge and her crew, including Lighting Designer Matthew Richards, Scenic Designer Narelle Sissons, and Costume Designer Leon Wiebers must have had a hive mind mentality seeing how well they all worked in tandem to create such a colorful, breathtaking, brilliant world for Christopher and the residents of Swindon to inhabit. Sisson’s set design, in particular, was quite exceptional seeing how the chaos of her design was quite calming in its own right.
LaMedica’s performance as Christopher was a theatrical triumph. Superbly engaging, LaMedica fully realized Christopher’s character and all of his peculiarities. His emotions were intense, his reactions were enchanting, and his dedication to authenticity was exquisite. This star-making performance by LaMedica is one that deserves an award for his mantle.
Kieffer as Ed and Blackman as Judy were both outstanding. Kieffer gave everything needed for a harsh English father, and Blackman was deliciously complex in her role as a conflicted mother. In the role of Siobhan, Wise was astonishing as she gave the production a sense of balance serving as a participant and an unbiased observer at the same time.
The rest of the talented cast did an amazing job serving in numerous roles. Their elasticity and willingness to be whoever and whatever the story required was completely captivating. Casting Director Pat McCorkle had a stroke of genius assembling this remarkable group of actors.
This production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is testament to The Rep’s tenacity. This charming yet challenging piece of theatre breaks the rules of conventional theatre and takes the audience on a wild and thought-provoking ride. Don’t expect the story to be told in order, but do expect to be able to see it—and appreciate it—through Christopher’s eyes. This is a must-see production for any and all theatre lovers.| Jim Ryan
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is recommended for teen and adult audiences. For show times and ticket prices, please visit repstl.org. The show runs through October 1st with specific performances having post show discussions.
Keep an eye out for my one on one interview with Artistic Director Steven Woolf.
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