‘Curious Incident’ transforms from page to stage

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” follows the journey of an unusual teenage boy who investigates the death of a neighbor’s dog. It’s a best-selling mystery that’s been translated in more than 40 languages, a novel so perfect that it’s hard to imagine it as anything else.

But under the skillful guidance of British playwright Simon Stephens, “Curious Incident” became the longest running play on Broadway in the past 10 years. Now on its North American tour, the Tony-award winning production is at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco until July 23.

The main character, Christopher Boone, is a 15-year-old with an extraordinary mathematical mind. Although no diagnosis is ever stated, he appears to have autism spectrum disorder. He’s a kid who doesn’t like to be touched, doesn’t like loud noises and struggles to read facial expressions.

The ingenious production — designed by Bunny Christie and Finn Ross — helps the audience understand Christopher.

At first glance the set appears to be a plain black box. But there are doors and cubicles, and lots of lights.

“When things become too much for him, all these LED lights are going off,” says Adam Langdon, who plays Christopher. “It makes it like the audience is living in Christopher’s brain.”

At the center of the plot is the dog’s demise, and Christopher is the suspect. He sets out to find the real killer, which ends up becoming a life-changing journey.

“It’s a play about family and it celebrates difference,” says Langdon. “It’s like Hamlet combined with Cirque du Soleil.”
Langdon, 24, reached by phone last week, says he admires Christopher’s bravery and the way he expresses himself. His favorite line: “The rain looks like white sparks.”

The play, directed by Marianne Elliott, began its journey at the National Theatre in London in 2012, making its way to the U.S after a West End run. The North American tour includes stops in more than 30 cities.

One of the changes from the book that works so well on stage, Langdon says, is that Christopher’s teacher Sioban has a greater role. In the play, she acts as the narrator.

“She’s the one who Christopher trusts,” Langdon says. “She’s the one who knows how intelligent he is.”
Although reading the book, written by Mark Haddon, might give audience members a broader experience, it’s by no means necessary.

“I think this is a play for everyone to see — whether they’re a theatergoer or not,” Langdon says. “This is a very different kind of theater.”

IF YOU GO

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Where: SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes July 23
Tickets: $55 to $275
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

Cathy Bowman

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