The Wharton Center welcomes a rarity to its stage this week: A national tour, not of a musical, but of a play. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley explores this Curious Incident.
It won 5 Tony awards, including Best Play in 2015 and the 1st national tour of the play with the great title of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time charts its way to the Wharton Center in East Lansing this week. It centers around Christopher, a fifteen year-old who is trying to solve the mystery of what happened to a neighbor’s dog. Along the way, Christopher is guided by Siobhan, who is played by Broadway veteran Maria Elena Ramirez. Maria Elena read the original novel of the same title by Mark Haddon but didn’t have much to go on from the source material.
"She isn't spoken of a lot about in the book." says Ramirez. "You can tell that she's very much a presence in his life, but she doesn't play a huge part in the book. But what Simon Stephens, the playwright has done is sort of turn that around and made Siobhan the narrator of the show. So, she sort of opens up the story to the audience and also at times not only is she his teacher, but she is sometimes goes within Christopher's mind to express the things he can't express."
Also helping Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an amazing set, which looks a bit like graph paper, but it hides secrets as Maria Elena explains:
"It's a black box grid, so it looks pretty simple, but in it it's filled with diodes, and lighting design, and it sort of has a life of it's own. It sort of lights up in many different ways. It's really supposed to be within his mind. You know, he's very mathematical, he's [a] math genius, sees the world in a very precise manor. So it's really a reflection of that and is plain enough to take us to just all different sorts of places and spaces. It looks very simple on the onset and as the play goes along, you're going to see that it provides different things for Christopher to play off of and to get. You know, things that he needs, they appear from the set."
In both the Mark Haddon’s original book and the play of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which arrives at the Wharton Center this week, the main character of Christopher is undiagnosed, but clearly somewhere on the line of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
"We see Christopher as this incredibly unique, wonderful young man." says actor Adam Langdon who portrays Christopher. "The play celebrates difference. Yeah, Christopher is different, but he's also like any other 15 year-old boy that I've ever known. You know, when his Dad says something stupid, he's annoyed. He can use sarcasm like anyone else. He doesn't like it, but he knows what it is."
As the character of Christopher explores his mathematics-centric world, we see his motion and thought processes while being aided by the set and the fellow cast members. As a result, actor Adam Langdon is required to be sometimes physically thrown about.
"At the beginning, it was the part of the show I was most scared of." says Langdon "It was the reason I didn’t think I could ever play the part. I’m just like this skinny kid from Brooklyn, I’m like ‘No.’
But Christopher requires bravery, of all the actors in the play. And so I remember I'm like, kneeling on two people's shoulders and have to fall backwards. I was like, the way I'm gonna get through this is that I've got to be brave for him. He needs me to be brave, so I've got to do it. And now it's part of the show that I look forward to most. All the physical stuff, it's so awesome. it's something I never thought I could do and now I get to it five nights a week for a year of my life? Wow! How lucky am I?"