By Becca Jennings
Who doesn’t like a good murder mystery? From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, the classic whodunnit has proven both irresistible and timeless. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a play by Simon Stephens based on a novel of the same name by Mark Haddon, too, has proven to be an irresistible British detective story. This contemporary work, however, takes one major twist on the classics. That twist comes in the form of its victim, which in this curious case happens to have a tail.
The play follows Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy who is exceptionally intelligent, but ill-equipped to decipher everyday life. When he finds the neighbor’s dog, Wellington, speared with a garden fork in the yard, Christopher, an animal lover and Sherlock Holmes admirer, is on the case to solve the murder of the poor canine.
As Christopher puts the pieces of the puzzle together, he reveals a distinct cast of characters, family secrets, and a brilliant mind in a complex relationship with the world.
For FST’s Producing Artistic Director and director of this production, Richard Hopkins, it was the play’s magnificent view of the universe that drew him to Curious Incident. “The audience has the privilege of viewing the universe through the extraordinary mind of Christopher,” explained Hopkins. “In this play, a grain of sand can become magnificent and the Milky Way seems manageable.”
Bringing that extraordinary perspective to life and stepping into the shoes of Christopher Boone is FST newcomer Alexander Stuart, who previously played the titular character in the Actors Theatre of Louisville production of Curious Incident. Stuart and his character share one very important trait. Both Christopher and Stuart experience life on the autistic spectrum.
“My goal is to break the mold of how autistic characters are played,” actor Alexander Stuart shared. “In many assorted autistic narratives, including Christopher’s, the character may seem somewhat robotic and hard to read, as if he or she is a vessel of information with occasional outbursts. And while Christopher speaks matter-of-factly, he will never lie to you about how he feels.”
Bringing even more magic to the production, is a technically elaborate scenic, light, and soundscape, designed to further immerse audiences in Christopher’s world. When Christopher hears a noise, for example, such as a train pulling into the station, it impacts his senses significantly more than other people. When this happens in the play, the sound effects will be amplified more than usual, mirroring the experience that Christopher is having in that moment.
“I think we should be able to look at Christopher at any given moment and know exactly what he’s feeling and thinking,” added Stuart. “I want audiences to see an autistic person who experiences emotions the same way anyone does. Because he is, after all, human.”
This Tony- and Olivier Award-winning play will take you on an adventure that will invigorate your senses and your soul. And while our victim in this murder mystery may not be human, you’ll find the story is very much so.