Wonderfully creative ‘Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ at Colonial Players of Annapolis

The play follows a teenage boy on the autistic spectrum who investigates the killing of his neighbor’s dog, and the lighting and sound effects are spectacular.

Colonial Players’ production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a light-filled journey of those who perceive the world differently. Based on the novel by Mark Haddon and adapted by Simon Stephens, it follows Christopher, a British teenage boy on the autistic spectrum who investigates the killing of his neighbor’s dog. Directed by Steve Tobin, it is a wonderfully creative show to end Colonial’s 75th season.

Drew Saint Amour fully captures teenage Christopher in all the difficulties of his condition. Slouching, he follows a precise pattern to walk while also rubbing his hands. Faced with conflict or frustration, he curls up into a ball on the floor, groaning and moaning, sometimes striking his head. His observations are fascinating, giving a different perspective on behavior and language. He excitedly tells his father about the requirements he sees for being an astronaut, and how he fits them. He folds up into himself on beds, chairs, and, in one case, a luggage rack. He delivers a fabulous monologue about all the lighting and sound equipment used to tell this story, as well as how he solved a tricky math problem.

Drew Saint Amour in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.’ Publicity photo by Brandon Bentley.

Paul Valleau plays Ed, Christopher’s father, with great strength. He is firm with Christopher, forbidding him from further investigating the dog’s death. He has a shocking moment of violence that later reveals his vulnerable side, as, with tears in his eyes, he reveals a terrible secret. He appears as a voice in Christopher’s head, sternly advising him.

Aparna Sri gives confidence and enthusiasm to Siobhan, Christopher’s counselor. She encourages him in his creative and academic efforts and calmly offers practical advice. Occasionally she reads aloud from his book, containing his observations. She has a moment of pure joy that is endearing to see.

Ellen Quay brings a complexity to Judy, Christopher’s mother. She comforts him during his fears and creates a system to encourage him to drink enough. Yet she also reveals how overwhelmed she was by his condition, so much so that she had to take drastic action. Love and desperation are both present in her. In Christopher’s memory, she is full of life and action.

Jane Carrigan, Sean Morton, Lauren Riley Sayles, Melanie Shipp, Todd Smith, Sarah Wade, and Julia Williams serve as the Ensemble, playing various characters Christopher encounters. Carrigan radiates kindness as Christopher’s neighbor, offering him drinks and food and discussing his particular tastes. Todd Smith shows impatience and anger as Judy’s partner, scoffing at Christopher’s behavior and even lashing out violently. Sarah Wade gives a great performance as a Tube traveler with a Cockney accent, getting her reluctant friend to help Christopher. They also move and support the doorframes, serve as clothes hooks, and give voice to Christopher’s thoughts. Penny Bedsworth is adorable as a dog named Sandy (not the one in the title.)

LEFT: Drew Saint Amour, Ellen Quay, and Paul Valleau; RIGHT: Drew Saint Amour and Aparna Sri, in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.’ Publicity photos by Brandon Bentley.

Set Designer Edd Miller has a nearly bare stage, with blocks throughout rearranged and fitted as chairs, podiums, tables, and beds. A large police sign is illuminated for one scene. Beyond the stage is a two-tiered luggage rack. Properties Designer Megan Henderson brings in various items as needed, including model train tracks and trains, tools, and beer cans. Costume Designer Linda Swann has casual outfits for everyone that keep them identifiable. At times, Christopher’s jacket and hood completely cover him.

Together, Lighting Designer John H. Purnell III, Sound Designer Erica Herdrich, and Special Effects Designers Wes Bedsworth and Eric Hufford powerfully recreate how Christopher perceives the world. Red lights flash when he suffers an attack, accompanied by harsh noises. Colored lights on the ground move in unusual patterns, in one scene creating a train entering and leaving. A projection brilliantly and graphically shows the dog of the title. Train station and London city noises give a sense of confusion. Video Projections Designers Richard Atha-Nicholls and Amy Atha-Nicholls throw images on screens just beyond the stage, from a block of rowhomes to numbers Christopher recites to calm himself, to a math problem, and how Christopher solves it.

Steve Tobin does a wonderful job as director. The actors navigate the stage and each other well. It is sometimes difficult to fully hear some of them, though, which may be due to their British accents. And while the lighting and sound effects are spectacular, it feels ironic that they might prevent people with sensory issues from enjoying a show about someone with those issues. Fortunately, two performances will be sensory-friendly. Still, Colonial Players deserves kudos for their creativity with this production, which, as Tobin writes, allows audiences to “walk in another person’s shoes.”

Running Time: Two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays through May 18, 2024, at The Colonial Players of Annapolis – 108 East Street in Annapolis, MD. For tickets ($26 for adults; $21 for seniors, students, and military), call the box office at 410-268-7373 or purchase online.

A virtual playbill is available for download here.

Sensory-friendly performances will be offered on Saturday, May 11, and Thursday, May 16.

COVID Safety: Masks are optional.


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