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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia, November 15, 2019

Kaitlin Molloy

Chantilly High School


A cacophony of noises, lights, and colors; we live in a world where the loudest voices overpower many brilliant individuals, who are waiting to be heard simply because they are different from ourselves. Bringing to life the unique mind of those who are ostracized because of how they perceive the world, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time teaches us that sometimes a small, strange investigation can lead to self-discovery, whether we're ready or not.


The stage adaptation (Simon Stephens) of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is based on Mark Haddon's best-selling book of the same title, originally published in 2003, wherein the murder mystery draws inspiration from Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series. The play ran on the West End, London, for five years from 2012-2017, garnering seven Olivier Awards, including Best Play, during its run.


Set in Swindon, England, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time follows a 15-year-old boy, Christopher Boone, who has Asperger's syndrome, which prevents him from understanding human emotions and causes him to interpret the world in a unique manner. When his neighbor's dog, Wellington, is murdered, Christopher embarks on an investigation to find the culprit, leading to a much bigger mystery about his own family.


The secluded, cautious Christopher (Joshua Mutterperl) is thrown into a whirlwind of discovery when he examines the murder of Wellington. Mutterperl masterfully portrays the autistic Christopher with consistent and accurate physical tics. His zeal and involvement, whether it be through witty remarks, silence or lack thereof, or hyper-realistic relationships with his cast mates, entices the audience into exploring the nuanced complexities of Christopher's character.


Christopher's strict, yet caring, father, Ed (Evan Howard) disapproves of Christopher's mission. Providing depth to a normally superficial character, Howard's commanding stage presence melts away as he develops his relationship with his son and returns with vigor when he betrays Christopher's trust. Siobhan (Valerie Nayak), Christopher's supportive teacher and later voice of reason, encourages Christopher to follow his heart and dreams. Throughout the entirety of the show, Nayak consistently brings vivacity and life to the her role.


Adding to Christopher's unique perspective of life, the multipurpose, minimalistic set (Saf Dandashi, Matthew Rothlisberger, Quentin Lovejoy) effectively showcases the unique mind of Christopher, easily changing from a winding path in Swindon to a crowded tube in London. Time, effort, and research was illustrated throughout the show's costuming (Ellen Rowe, Macy Wright, Emma Barnes), with extensive and masterful use of color to show how Christopher feels about the character, using red to mean trust, yellow/brown to show distrust, blue to signify his mind, and using intermediary colors to signify a shift in character's relationships. Clearly, the most breathtaking technical element was "the Grid" (Matthew Rothlisberger, Alexandra Trotter). The impressive set-piece utilizes 240 LED and over 2500 lines of code to project changing bright colors, using the same color symbolism as costuming.


With heartfelt performances and breathtaking technical elements, Thomas Jefferson High School's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time encourages us to take a leap into the unknown, regardless of what we might face on the other side.

Jalin Dew

Westfield High School

Seven minutes after midnight, the sky is dark. A fluffy white dog lies dead, speared in its own yard with a garden fork. Who killed the canine remains a mystery, but for young Christopher Boone, it is a case that must be cracked. In TJ Drama's newest production, join Christopher on his fanciful adventure to solve The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was written by Simon Stephens, adapted from the award-winning novel by Mark Haddon. The production debuted in the United Kingdom's Cottesloe Theatre in 2012 and was the recipient of seven Olivier Awards in 2013 and five Tony Awards in 2015, including Best Play. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is now a globally recognized hit, presented to three million people worldwide.


The story immerses the audience in the world of fifteen-year-old Christopher, a teen with an unspecified autism spectrum condition, as he retells his amateur investigation of the pooch's murder. The production is presented as a play-within-a-play, narrated by Christopher himself, as he presents the story alongside his teacher and mentor, Siobhan. Through marvelous storytelling and ingenious technical aspects, TJ Drama's production is both amusing and stirring in its own unique way.


Joshua Mutterperl stood at the helm of this production, portraying the fifteen-year-old Christopher. Mutterperl achieved what few others could, an authentic and respectful representation of autism. Throughout the production, Mutterperl maintained consistency in his physical and verbal mannerisms, captivated the audience with a performance that felt more like reality than a theatrical outing. He was surrounded by a cast with immense depth, contributing to an even richer story.


TJ Drama's technical elements contributed to the narrative in clever ways. Costume designer Ellen Rowe's costume choices were exceptional, using color to reflect how Christopher felt towards certain characters, including how his trust developed. The production's dizzying number of props, designed by Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon, were exceptionally well managed, placed in the boxes created by the set construction team. The transportable boxes were a prime example of set versatility, a depiction of the abstractness of Christopher's mind.


Perhaps the most difficult and ambitious element of the show was the creation of the LED lighting grid software by Matthew Rothlisberger and Alexandra Trotter. Coding in Python and C++, the duo wrote over two thousand lines of code for the many cues, an impressive feat. Their color choices and seamless execution enhanced the story by helping the audience better understand Christopher's mind.


In what begins as a quirky murder mystery, TJ Drama's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time leaves' audiences feeling warm with a story culminating in empathy and love.    


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