The adventures of a young sleuth who sees the world in a singularly distinctive way should be engaging to most any audience member.
At least that’s a natural conclusion to draw when considering the multiple awards and other accolades collected by “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” That’s true whether it’s in the story’s original form, the 2003 novel by Mark Haddon, or the theatrical adaptation that made it to Broadway in 2015. The production will be staged beginning Friday at Heyde Center for the Arts in Chippewa Falls.
Josh Dolan-Neill, director of the Heyde Center production, praised the “basic humanity of the story” focusing on 15-year-old math whiz Christopher Boone.
“It’s really just a young man’s search for truth and trying to find his place in life,” Dolan-Neill said. “That transcends everything. Everyone can relate to that, everyone’s looking for their truth, everyone’s looking for their spot. I think that’s something that people can really take with them no matter what.”
According to a story synopsis at broadway.com: Christopher lives with his divorced dad in a working-class town west of London. After being falsely accused of killing a neighbor’s dog, Christopher — who is brilliant but has difficulty dealing with the sounds and stresses of everyday life — decides to investigate the crime. The secrets he unearths prompt him to leave his trusted teacher and the familiar streets of his hometown for a life-changing train trip to London.
The novel earned such awards as Whitbread Book of the Year and an Alex Award, which honors the top 10 adults books with appeal for adolescents. The stage adaptation earned a Tony Award for Best Play and, in London, an Olivier Award for Best New Play.
Dolan-Neill read Haddon’s book and said that, as a director, he was drawn to the uniqueness of Christopher, who has been identified in some accounts as being on the autism spectrum, although that description does not appear in the book or play.
The clever theatricality of the stage production also caught Dolan-Neill’s attention.
“I loved how it was put together, how the scenes just flow together one right after another,” he said. “Every one of them has purpose, every one of them has impact on the story. It’s just such a well-written, well-put-together, thoughtful piece that it’s really hard not to want to direct it.”
In presenting Christopher’s interactions with the world, the production makes use of scenic and sonic elements.
“There’s a lot of times where he just gets lost in really just a cacophony of information for him,” Dolan-Neill said. “It’s so easy for a person who has autism to get overstimulated to the point where they just shut down. And I think that’s a lot of what we do visually and auditorily to convey that sense of just being overwhelmed.”
Dolan-Neill said if he were using the Motion Picture Association of America system, he would give their play a PG-13 rating based on a couple of cases of off-color language.
But, he added, “Overall the story is so good and it’s very relatable to somebody in their early teens. It’s really something you should probably bring your middle schoolers to.”