THEATRE: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

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THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Seeing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, at the Ahmanson, was such an overwhelming experience, (in a great way,) that I don’t even know where to begin!!! I was still crying when the lights came on, and have not stopped thinking about this amazing production ever since.

Adam Langdon.  Photo by Joan Marcus.

Adam Langdon. Photo by Joan Marcus.

So, first of all, let me laud the star, Adam Langdon, who gives a phenomenal tour de force performance as the *autistic British teen-ager at the center of this tale. I’ve never seen such a complete portrayal of a person with a brain or emotional challenge since Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. (Leo should have won the Oscar for that, and then the category should have been retired forever, if you ask me, which you actually are doing by reading this!) I had been a tad disappointed that we in Los Angeles were not going to see the same actor who played the part on Broadway, but now that I’ve seen this guy, I can’t imagine anyone else doing it. (But the role is sooo demanding that Adam shares the role with another actor for certain performances.)

Let me tell you—I was drained and exhausted when the play was over, so I cannot even imagine what Adam, and the rest of the cast, too, actually, feel when they’re done for the night. Instead of going out for a drink after, they must head over to an oxygen bar!!!

(L-R) Maria Elena Ramirez, Gene Gillette, and Adam Langdon.  Photo by Joan Marcus.

(L-R) Maria Elena Ramirez, Gene Gillette, and Adam Langdon. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a very powerful show. It’s been four days since opening night, yet I still hear Christopher, the lead character, discussing his “maths” in my head! I knew not one thing about it beforehand, (because I always like to have an experience from point zero, without any outside influences coloring it for me,) but within a minute or so, I knew this was a kid with autism. The funny thing (that I found out through post-show research) is that the author of the book said that he never mentions autism or Asperger’s in the book at all. But there’s no other thing it could be! As a former teacher, and as someone who’s had pals and acquaintances with the syndrome, I recognized it right away. And I can tell you just how spot-on Adam’s portrayal is, along with the writing and direction.

Gene Gillette and Adam Langdon. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Gene Gillette and Adam Langdon. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was a novel first, which I didn’t know until afterwards.  So just adapting this complicated and witty story by Mark Haddon must have been a massive undertaking for the playwright, Simon Stephens. [*Note: My understanding is that in an interview in 2003, when the book first came out, Haddon said, “I’m very careful in the book not to actually use the words ‘Asperger’s’ or ‘autism.’ … It’s not a novel about a boy who has Asperger’s syndrome; it’s a novel about a young mathematician who has some strange behavioral problems.”]

The direction and staging by Marianne Elliott make the story clear enough. (Except for one thing–I never got that the entire action is supposed to be a play within a play. I was confused when the mentor character began talking to the audience near the end, but I was so into the performance that I just went with it. It wasn’t until I researched the topic later that night that I found-out that fact.)

(L-R) Adam Langdon, Felicity Jones Latta, and Maria Elena Ramirez. Photo by Joan Marcus.

(L-R) Adam Langdon, Felicity Jones Latta, and Maria Elena Ramirez. Photo by Joan Marcus.

And the visuals are stunning! At first glance, the set looks so simple. But as the play goes on, it all gets more and more interesting. On opening night, it even got applause at one point! The entire thing is unbelievably creative. Kudos to everyone involved for all those bits of brilliance!

Despite the story being about this challenged youngster, Christopher, and his sad family situation, and a murdered dog, (whose dead body is on the stage as we enter the theatre, a visual the friend I saw it with just could not get over,) I found the tale to be quite charming. And heartwarming. I was riveted to it.

Adam Langdon and Maria Elena Ramirez. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Adam Langdon and Maria Elena Ramirez. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The entire cast is terrific, but Maria Elena Ramirez, as the special school’s “paraprofessional” (sort-of a therapist) who mentors Christopher, is especially spot-on. I found myself being comforted every time she appeared. At one particularly emotional time for Christopher, when her character Siobhan arrived on the scene, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. (Maybe if Maria ever leaves acting, she can become my therapist! I may need one after this affecting show!)

And not to spoil the ending, but in case you’re worried that this show’s topic is a difficult one for you, I have to tell you that there was a survey in England, (where the writer is from and where the story takes place,) which found The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to be the fourth most happy ending of a British novel in history!

And just to make the play’s ending even happier than that of the book, I have to tell you this–don’t leave right after the curtain call. There’s a special surprise that I had hoped for, and it was even more fun than I had imagined.

So now go enjoy!!! Just bring some tissues if you’re as sensitive as I am.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time running through September 10, 2017
Ahmanson Theatre  135 N. Grand Ave.  213-972-4400  www.CenterTheatreGroup.org

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