Quote of the Day: I find the “Curious Incident” script irresistible. It’s structure is a theatrical jungle gym, offering up endless opportunities to explore and create. Ellen Fenster, director for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo, MN.
I read the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon a few years ago and found it fascinating. Haddon gives us a glimpse into the mind of a young man, Christopher, who experiences the world differently than I do. He is often on sensory overload. Change sends him into a tale spin. He becomes obsessed with finding out the answers. He’s a mathematical genius. He always speaks the truth.
Zach Schnitzer plays Christopher so authentically that I didn’t even think about him as an actor playing a part. I watched Christopher experience the world with all its noises and confusing metaphors, people who let you down, and his ability to be ultra focused on something. He explains it in a scene about riding the train. He says that other people see one thing, then forget about it. He sees all the things and remembers the details. For instance, he knows how many cows are in the pasture and what color they are. He knows how many people are in the car, what they smell like, and if they get too close to him. He doesn’t like public restrooms and he has a tendency to hide.
Christopher is obsessed with finding out who killed his neighbor’s dog. Along the way, he meets his neighbors, talks to them, and finds out things about them and his own family. His own obsession pushes him out of his normal routines and comfort zone. As he navigates this information, he works with his teacher Siobhan (Laura Esping). She is a constant person in his life. She has a calming voice and helps him fill his toolbox with ways to cope with the world. She is every amazing teacher I have ever met. When Christopher is left on his own to deal with his circumstances, he hears her calming voice in his head, and he succeeds.
Besides his teacher, Christopher seems to have the best connection with his dad Ed (Corey Mills). He is able to talk to Christopher and help him understand (sometimes) why things are they way they are. But, not always. Ed has his own faults and demons. Christopher’s mom felt the disconnect even more. Life is complicated, and even more so when you are not neuro-typical, or have a child who is not neuro-typical.
I found this production fascinating to watch. The playwright, director, actors, and production crew did an amazing job of bringing the page to the stage. I remember reading the book and finding myself experiencing the world through Christopher. The ensemble cast: Melinda Kordich, Matthew Lolar, Peter Simmons, Alexcia Thompson, and Dylan Ward play many characters, and also assist in moving set and props, often in a way that shows us what’s going on in Christopher’s mind. So many voices. So many moving parts. Sounds that are too loud. Lights that are too bright. Then, ultra focus, calming voices, and people who can connect.
The Sound Designer (Peter Morrow) and Lighting Designer (Courtney Schmitz) add so much to the effect of this production. The set seems simple, wooden platform, sunken garden, sliding doors, but it is so much more. They have great us of theater boxes, all sizes, with lids, and openings, that are everything from a letter box to stairs. The use of projections (Design by Emmet Kowler) skillfully illustrate what is happening in the story and in Christopher’s mind. The use of the orbs held me captive. I wanted to reach out and touch them, to feel their weight and texture.
Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo, MN is a sweet, intimate space, an ideal setting for this play that explores a young man’s navigation through a world that is often confusing and frustrating, and his relationship with the people who surround him. I gained empathy for people who experience the world differently than I do. I felt connected in this confusing and disconnected world.
You can see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at The Yellow Tree Theater through October 13, 2019. Come, experience this beautiful, heart-wrenching story, and learn a little math along the way.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: When have you felt unheard or confused by other’s actions?