Theater Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME (Greenway Court Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on December 28, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles


Meet Christopher, a wannabe bloodhound who has significant social, behavioral and communication challenges; we assume the unnamed disorder is on the autism spectrum, but this magnificent play isn’t about his mental challenges. The British teen — the unlikely hero of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel and Simon Stephens’ equally valued adaption, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, does much more than search for the person who murdered his neighbor’s dog with a garden fork. He has a family that needs help and healing. Watching that happen in Kate Jopson’s captivating staging at Greenway Court is a 150-minute joy. The 2017 tour of Curious Incident played the Ahmanson with a terrific production, but this 99-seat intimate space actually upped some of the thrilling aspects.

A 15-year-old math whiz, Christopher is an only child whose anomaly is enough to push adolescence way beyond awkward, manifesting itself in manic multi-tasking, an inability to focus (or to lie), attention deficits, a maddening literal-mindedness, and a disarming directness that both shames and irritates adults with secrets. Afraid to be touched, this devotee of Sherlock Holmes is only comfortable with fixed, reliable entities, like quantities and equations. But even in a world of things, the right searcher can find values and even emotions.

The tale is framed as a play-within-a-play: Christopher’s writings are read by his beloved mentor Siobhan (pronounced Shi-VAWN) (Kacie Rogers), a teacher who helps him navigate the non-mathematical world. Thus, this marvelous play is fully felt from Christopher’s eyes out: The Curious Incident delivers another worthy way to wonder at the world.

Initially intent on uncovering who murdered Wellington — the pet belonging to his neighbor Mrs. Shears (Tristan Cunningham) — Christopher (the awesome and indefatigable Iain Kohn) interviews his neighbors, including a helpful elderly resident Mrs. Alexander (Denise Moses). He gets clues to more than canicide, of which he suspects Mrs. Shears’ estranged husband Roger (Abe Martell). He also uncovers disturbing revelations about his single-parent dad Ed (Michael Yurchak), a boiler engineer with lies to cover up secrets.

In search of his mother Judy (the always captivating Joanna Strapp), Christopher embarks on a frantic excursion in the second act from his native Swindon to a very intimidating London. Fraught with urban perils intensified by Christopher’s alienation (the scenes involving train stations are breathtakingly imaginative and necessarily overwhelming and loud), the adventure takes Christopher to an encounter that offers a chance for him to find himself. And he will break whatever rules impede the truth.

A visceral young actor who channels everything at just the right moment and pace, Kohn kinetically registers Christopher’s anguished, electrifying living-in-the-moment. A jittery mindset that initially feels chaotic and anarchic evolves magnificently; Kohn embodies Christopher’s determination perfectly (would that so many students are that ardent to to pass an A-level math exam). The necessarily supporting performances are totally credible, both as actual adults and manifestations of Christopher’s consciousness; the tight ensemble members don’t just play multiple roles, they move scenery and each other around the stage.

The narration is aided by set designer JR Bruce’s elevated playing area — reconfigured as a thrust stage which is pocked with nooks and crannies for actors to find Andrea Fiorentini’s many props and Danae Iris McQueen’s quick-change costumes. Azra King-Abadi’s lights and Jesse Mandapat’s sound are cunningly coordinated with the onstage action, reflecting the methodical mazes of Christopher’s mind with its very precise panic attacks and chronic overthinking. It took Greenway Arts Alliance’s technological village led by stage manager Amanda Eno to create a great theatrical experience.

photos by Philicia Endelman

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Greenway Arts Alliance
Greenway Court Theatre, 544 North Fairfax Ave.
ends on December 29, 2019
for tickets, call visit Greenway Court

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