DUAL CRITICS REVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Players By The Sea

Players by the Sea opened the Tony Award winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on April 20th, 2018. The production will remain on stage in the studio theatre through May 5th.

Curious Incident was launched as a book in 2004 by Mark Hadden. The story was adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens and opened in London in 2012, where it won seven Oliver awards. After opening on Broadway in 2014, the play won a total of five Tony Awards, including Best Play.

The book has been characterized as a British mystery novel, and it is that, but is even more a coming of age story. Christopher Boone is fifteen years old and has a remarkable brain. He is a wiz at math and deciphers the challenges of his everyday life in unusual ways. And he is autistic.

Our journey with Christopher begins when he learns that a neighbor’s dog has been murdered and he challenges himself to use the skills of an amateur detective to discover who committed the crime. In the process, he learns painful and disturbing truths about the adults in his life.

Many aspects of this young boy’s universe are often frightening, although oddly alluring at times. He goes to a special school, and his autism makes him a loner. He doesn’t like strangers and he doesn’t like being touched. He dislikes the color yellow, but is captivated by red.

Christopher takes us on a unique journey within his home, school, and neighborhood, and ultimately leaves Swindon to travel to London. The Dual Critics will not unfold the plot in detail – this engaging story will keep you hanging on every word and gesture from beginning to end and we don’t want to present any spoilers.

The play was brilliantly directed by Bradley Akers, a talented contributor to our local theatrical community, who also designed the set and the lighting design.

The play is staged in the studio theatre, which seats eighty. The minimalist set has two walls, with wide doors. And it’s spell-binding, filled with constantly changing projected lighting. The English accents were easy to understand.

The four central characters give solid performances. Christopher is portrayed by Drew L. Brown; a role showcasing his considerable talents. His performance is a meticulously worked out, filling every moment with “business.” We remember seeing Mr. Brown for the first time as Mark Rothko’s studio assistant in “Red,” in 2014, where he was excellent. We wondered if he could successfully play a fifteen-year old — and are delighted to report the answer is Yes! Yes!

Actress Gloria Ware appears as Christopher’s mother Judy, Everette Street as his father Ed. Both enact characters filled with deep emotion. Cecilia Cristol portrays Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher and mentor.

Six actors who undertake multifaceted characterizations include Amy Hancock (Mrs. Shears & others); Joseph Stearman (Roger Shears & others); Kerry Burke-McCloud, (Mr. Thompson & others); Neal Thorburn (Reverend Peters & others); Lauren Hancock (No.40 & Others) and Peggy McGuinness (Mrs. Alexander & others.) The roles required multiple costume changes and entrances and exits with appearances among others, as students, teachers, policeman, conductors, passengers, bedroom lamps . . . the list is extensive.

The play has a happy ending and you will likely have a better understanding afterward of the challenges faced by those with autism.

With Curious Incident Players by the Sea has again given local theatre another daring production. Tickets are going fast for this limited run. For reservations, call 249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org.

Of note: Next up as part of the New Voices program is the world premier of A Seat at the Table by James F. Webb III, on stage during June 1 – 10, 2018.

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.
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