Port Tobacco Players presents a pensive ‘Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’

The dynamics of a broken family are seen through the eyes of an autistic teen.

Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone was the kind of young man who recited prime numbers when he got stressed. He would ask questions like “Where is God?” and then proceed to try to answer that vexing question mathematically.

Port Tobacco Players’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a play about the breakdown of a family seen through the eyes of an autistic teenager. When Christopher is mistakenly accused of killing a neighbor’s dog, he sets out to find the actual offender. Christopher’s investigation results in a life-altering discovery and a journey to find the truth behind the fractures in his family.

Heather LaBelle (Voice 1) as Mrs. Shears and William Zabriskie as Christopher in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.’ Photo by Jason Klonkowski.

Playwright Simon Stephen based the show on the same-titled book by Mark Haddon. The title is a reference to the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Silver Blaze.” In the course of its initial 2013 run, the play tied for the most Olivier Awards given out (seven), including Best New Play. Stephen’s retelling of the story, set in Great Britain, is a sort of play-within-a-play because it is presented as a reading of Christopher’s writing by his teacher.

William Zabriskie, a sophomore at Maurice J. McDonough High School, in his third Port Tobacco Players (PTP) show, was phenomenal as Christopher. The acting range he added to his character’s narrative arc was almost flawless. Thanks to Autism Coach Caprice Nathaniel, Zabriskie’s mannerisms were well done. Dialogue Coach Fraser Tuffee helped craft Zabriskie’s believable British accent.

The scenes between Zabriskie and his angry and distant father, Ed, played by the amazing John Swann, were relatable, and they made me feel something. Swann is a PTP veteran, having played in its Jesus Christ Superstar road show. I enjoyed the scenes between Zabriskie and Kim Moore Bessler, as neighbor Mrs. Alexander; in those scenes, Christopher learned shattering facts about his family.

William Zabriskie as Christopher in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.’ Photo by Jason Klonkowski.

Nicole Collins was engaging to watch as Christopher’s mother. Seen in a flashback, and later in the play’s present time, Collins played her story arc well. Collins is the Director and a player in the Cloudwalker Concert Series. What can I say about the delightful David Ludy, who played Policeman and Rev. Peters, among other characters? He brought such energy to the show that I would light up when I watched him. Ludy has appeared in such PTP productions as 1776, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and A Christmas Carol.

Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez played Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher, with a charming British/Irish accent. Throughout the majority of the show, she sat house left, on a short stone wall, reading Christopher’s diary while other characters acted out or shadowed what she read.

Jake Jaffe played Roger Shears, who had some curious interactions with Christopher’s mother. I liked Heather LaBelle as Mrs. Shears. Michael Beyrle Jr. was effective as Voice Three/Policeman. Trinity Fraser was like a human utility tool as Voice Five and many other characters.

William Zabriskie as Christopher and John Swann as Ed in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.’ Photo by Jason Klonkowski.

Director Craig Hower pulled his players together to make a thought-inducing show. I give credit to Hower also the set designer; Chuck “Nail Bender” Hower, master carpenter; Nina McNeal-Grover, set decorator; and Michael O’Shields, scenic art coordinator, for elements such as the lifelike, house-right tree (with branches that spread to the orchestra pit) and the flown scenery pieces. I still haven’t figured out how those pieces were flown/slid without any visible wires (floor magnets, perhaps?).

The show boasts two sound designers, Kelsey Clarke and Nathan Daetwyler. Their thunder and rain effects made me think there was a storm outside.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a pensive production for serious theatergoers. When you see it, stay past the curtain for a pleasant surprise.

Running time: Two hours 45 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays through October 9, 2022, at Port Tobacco Players, 508 Charles Street, La Plata, MD. Tickets ($16.50-$19.50) can be purchased online.

COVID Safety:  For all performances, masks will be required. See Port Tobacco Players’ complete COVID Safety Plan here.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
By Simon Stephens based on the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon
Producer: Mike Gahan
Director: Craig Hower

Christopher: William Zabriskie
Ed: John Swann
Judy:  Nicole Collins
Siobhan: Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez
Voice 1: Heather LaBelle
Voice 2: Jake Jaffe
Voice 3: Michael Beyrle Jr.
Voice 4: David Ludy
Voice 5: Trinity Fraser
Voice 6: Kim Moore Bessler

Director: Craig Hower
Dialogue Coach: Fraser Tuffee
Autism Coach: Caprice Nathaniel
Set Designer: Craig Hower
Scenic Art Coordinator: Michael O’Shields
Set Decorator: Nina McNeal-Grover
Master Carpenter: Chuck “Nail Bender” Hower
Sound Design: Kelsey Clarke and Nathan Daetwyler



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