In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, based on the novel by Mark Haddon and running at the Providence Performing Art Center through February 12, audiences follow the adventures of Christopher, a 15 year old boy who stumbles upon his neighbor’s murdered dog. Christopher takes it upon himself to solve the mystery, despite his father’s explicit orders to leave it alone, and ends up getting caught up in a heartbreaking whodunit full of unexpected personal revelations.
Though Christopher’s condition is never stated, he exists somewhere on the autism spectrum, displaying a natural prowess of mathematics but the inability to navigate the complex world of human interaction. Christopher can’t be touched, can’t tell a lie and prefers the company of math and science to other people. The world of other people is loud, messy and full of ambiguity. Numbers, on the other hand, are only what they are, and when they change there’s a perfectly good formula to explain why. All of this makes him a great sleuth, but when a big emotional twist comes at the end of act one, reason fails him and the complexity of people nearly becomes too much for him to handle.
Adam Langdon is excellent in his portrayal of Christopher, but the sound and stage design go a long way in showing the world through his eyes. As he becomes overwhelmed, blinding strobes and painful noise piece through the theatre and projectors bombad the three large mathematical grid walls with enough information to drown him. On the flipside, when Christopher is in his element, the soundscape beeps along with a scientific precision and the walls light up to illustrate his thought process.
Through its sequences of high tech anxiety and on stage versions on a film’s jump cuts, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time puts its audience in the shoes of a remarkable boy who may be defined by his condition but won’t be limited by it. Through Christopher’s eyes we’re afforded an opportunity to see the world in a new way. As he says at one point, most people look out a window only to notice one thing and nothing else. For better or worse, Christopher sees everything. He wouldn’t have it any other way.