In Simon Stephens’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a highly gifted teenage boy named Christopher Boone investigates the murder of his neighbor’s dog, Wellington. As his investigation unfolds, Christopher unearths family secrets that throw his world in a tailspin, making him question his relationship with his father, and spurring him on an adventure that will change his life forever. In FST’s production of Curious Incident, Todd Licea plays Ed Boone, Christopher’s father, a patient man who sometimes struggles to take care of a child who presents him with challenges.
We met with Todd to talk about how he started out in show business as a dancer, what it’s like being a voice-over actor, and the brilliance of Curious Incident.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays in FST’s Gompertz Theatre through March 29. For tickets and more information, click here.
How would you describe your character, Ed? How are you two similar? How are you different?
Ed drinks a great deal, and I think he’s quite lonely and doesn’t have many friends. I have been very lucky to go to college – I don’t believe Ed has had that opportunity. Like Ed, I too have rage, but perhaps I’m older or with the life I’ve led, I’ve been able to avoid tragic episodes of “red mist,” as he calls it in the play.
What does Ed understand about and see in Christopher that few other people do? What do you think Ed’s dreams and hopes are for Christopher are?
Like any parent, Ed wants to see his son thrive. And while Christopher may not be a terrific athlete or artist, he is a gifted mathematician. Ed is a champion for his son and helps him take full advantage of the gift he has. Ed would also like to get out of Swindon and hopes Christopher can help him do that.
Why do you think that Curious Incident is so popular, both as a novel and a play?
It’s a hero’s journey – that’s just always fun to read or watch. And in this case, it is a special young man with special needs. Like all of us do, he is growing up desiring independence and must go on this journey in order to achieve it, which is what we all do or try to do regardless of our own stories. The author has also put us into the mind and inner world of Christopher, which is no small feat.
Even though the set for Curious Incident appears to be pretty simple, it’s actually for secret cubbies and projections are broadcast on it throughout the course of the play. What was it like to be on the set for the first time?
I’m a “less is more” kind of artist. I enjoy challenging the audience a bit and having them use their imaginations along with us. I love the wide open space that this set creates while also manifesting the very mathematical grid that exists for Christopher. We are in his world after all, so it makes sense to me that it appears strange and foreign for others.
The last FST production you were a part of was Stephen Spotswood’s Doublewide. How is your previous character, Big Jim, similar to your current one, Ed Boone?
Both men are completely committed to their children. Each of them has obstacles to overcome and lessons to learn, but they are 100% participating in their children’s lives and want what is best for them. As a parent myself, I can relate to both of these men. I enjoy reading Kahlil Gibran and his thoughts about how parents are the archer and the child is the arrow. He writes that it is the parents’ job to hold the bow as steady as possible so that the arrow can fly swiftly, true and far. I really love that image and I think through it all, both Jim and Ed are trying to do their best at that.
Besides acting onstage, you do voice-over work. How do you change your acting approach when doing voice-over work? Is it difficult acting without a scene partner to react to?
Voice-over work is very much like acting onstage, but obviously the audience can’t see your face or body. All of the best voice-over performers I’ve ever worked with are also tremendous actors.
Voice-overs can be character driven, like games, audiobooks, or commercials, but they can also be strictly informative, as in training videos or sales. I used to do lots of voice-overs for Microsoft, which was really just a lot of technical information. My favorites though are always when another actor is with me in the booth and we can talk directly to each other. That really helps so much. However, it is not always possible because of schedules and time, so the booth can be a very strange and lonely little room to work in.
Why should someone come see Curious Incident?
It’s an incredible novel, and a brilliant adaptation into a play. And you have the opportunity to see what happens when the right role for the right actor shows up at the right time – Alex’s performance of Christopher is, for me, deeply moving and something that is not easily forgotten.