In 2003, Mark Haddon released his best-seller. Nine years later, Simon Stephens brought the story to the stage. Then in 2015, it won the Tony Award for best play.
Finally, on Tuesday night "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" made its way to a Detroit audience at the Fisher Theatre. It was the first of 16 performances in 13 days.
The novel-turned-stage adaptation doesn't disappoint.
When you hear the premise of "Curious Incident," you might think the night is about to be a serious downer: teenage kid with serious social issues; marital strife; and a dead dog taking center stage to open the show with a giant pitchfork jabbed into its abdomen. “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”
But this show perseveres, and finds humor and heart in unexpected places. The main character, Christopher, garners many a laugh with his unique knack for saying exactly what is on his mind. There isn’t the slightest hint of a fact being stretched or an event being exaggerated. Christopher reminds the audience many times that he “always tells the truth.”
Curious Incident does indeed speak directly to the playgoers throughout the evening. The fourth wall is continually shattered for comedic effect, with ample discussion of Christopher’s writings one day being made into a play. Christopher scoffs at this suggestion, but little does he know such a transformation has already taken place and that crowds are flocking to theaters around the world.
While the little idiosyncrasies of Christopher’s behavior get a bit old as the show huffs and puffs toward the two and a half hour mark, the energy remains constant due to the brilliant things this show does with lighting and scenery. Remember the dizzying scene in "Willy Wonka" when Gene Wilder takes the assembled group on a scream-filled psychedelic trip through his chocolate river? You’ll get a taste of that madness in this play’s second half as Christopher traverses his way through the chaotic London public transit system.
The set itself might look scant at first glance, but you see very quickly how they make use of every nook and cranny. Christopher often grabs key props from secret cubbies located within the high-tech walls that surround the stage. When he excitedly draws something on the floor, that same image is reflected above, in real-time. In "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," you’ll see visual elements that you likely have not witnessed before.
The role of Christopher would be heavy for any actor, let alone a young pup like Adam Langdon. The part calls for a wide range of emotions and a commitment to the character’s distinct speech patterns. It is also a tremendously physical role; Christopher is essentially on the move (usually in a hurry) for the entirety of the play. Langdon comes through with flying colors, finding just the right mix of brilliance, mania, and innocence in this savant-like character. (Note: Benjamin Wheelwright will play Christopher in six of the Fisher performances.)
It can be a great challenge to take a popular piece of literature and transform it for the stage or screen. Sometimes the tone from those 300 pages can be lost and justice not quite done to the original work. That is not the case here.
"Curious Incident" makes the transition beautifully, a fact for which Fisher Theatre audiences will be grateful over these next two weeks.