Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Sam Houston State’s University’s production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” directed by David McTier, was indeed a curious event. Based on the title, I assumed it would be a whimsical play about a lost dog on his journey to find his home, but that was a far cry from what I saw.

The play is based on a novel by Mark Haddon and adapted by Simon Stephens. It was about a young, autistic boy by the name of Christopher (Austin Havis) who is trying to figure out who killed his neighbor’s dog,Wellington. On his investigative journey, he discovers his father has been lying to him about many things in his life and his world begins to unravel.

The story was told in a rather abstract way and the set played a major part in its telling. The set, although minimal, had elements that told the story in an interesting way. Throughout the play there were boxes carried by the main character, Christopher, as well as the ensemble. The boxes had lights within them and they were able to change colors depending on what was going on within the story. The boxes also had parts of images painted on them so that when they were assembled, they would create images. In the beginning of the show, the boxes displayed the image of Wellington and how he had been killed. In another scene, the displayed the platform of a train station. The boxes helped give the show an element I have never seen before.

Aside from the glowing boxes, there was a book written by Christopher, but was narrated by his teacher Siobhan (Kiaya Scott). When the book was opened, it illuminated, drawing your eye to it.

Another element of the set that made it interesting to watch was that there were the huge pieces cut into almost puzzle-like shapes hanging in the background that had images projected on them that represented what was going on inside Christopher’s mind. When he was at school, there would be math equations projected on a chalkboard background. When he was out in the world, the images projected would resemble a map. When Christopher needed to calm himself, he would recite numbers and the numbers would be projected within the different pieces hanging in the background. I loved this idea of having what looked like oddly shaped puzzle pieces to resemble what Christopher’s mind was like. This provided insight into the thought process of an autistic child.

If there could be one criticism of the play it would be that since the set relied on major pieces like glowing boxes and puzzle pieces that represented the mind, it was small details that were ignored. For example, there was a scene in Act I of the show in which Christopher was taken to the police station and he was asked to empty his pockets. When he did, and none of the objects that were called out appeared via projection, I found that it took me out of the show instead of further pulling me into the story. There were many moments like this where the fine details that make a show range from good to great were lacking and took away from the fantasy of the show.

The actors played their parts well and the ensemble characters, though a bit confusing at first, enticed me as an audience member.The ensemble at times would be just that, an ensemble, but other times they would branch off and be other characters. They would portray specific neighbors and even one ensemble member played Christopher’s mother. The ensemble was very in sync with one another which made their movements as a unit fluid and natural.Christopher and his father Ed had a natural chemistry and their relationship as father and son was very much believable.

This production was a good show to see and provided many interesting and insightful elements. From glowing boxes and puzzle fragments to the story that had you wondering what direction it was going to take you, SHSU’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” was one intriguing and mathematical production.

Leave a Reply