Teen Theatre Company
Christopher often looked up at the stars--sometimes he pretended he was in space among all of them. He thought that he had the qualities to be a good astronaut. But for other people? Christopher and his behavior were just problems to be dealt with. Robinson Secondary School's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was a sincere look at how people are judged by the world, and in the end, how they launch their own story against the odds.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was adapted by Simon Stephens from the book by Mark Haddon, and won five Tony Awards in 2015, including one for Best Play. The story follows fifteen-year-old Christopher, who has a mind for numbers, but not social situations. When he starts to investigate who killed the dog next door, he discovers secrets about his family that invert his world and send him on a voyage all by himself.
Christopher (Harry MacInnis) was a wonderfully authentic actor who respectfully portrayed a person with behavioral difficulties. MacInnis embodied mannerisms like pacing and fiddling with his hoodie strings, creating a character who was focused on the details other people didn't seem to see. On stage and deep in character for the entire play, MacInnis was the lens through which the world was viewed, and he explored it with honesty and bravery.
Three important people in Christopher's story were Siobhan (Becca Diggs), Ed (Amari Lewis), and Judy (Taegan Pratt). Diggs, as Christopher's teacher and the narrator, was a calm and non-threatening friend, reminding Christopher in his head to just keep stepping forward. Lewis, as Christopher's dad, had consistent gestures, like putting his hands in his pockets, that created the image of a parent who didn't know everything, but was still trying. Pratt, as Christopher's mom, was an idealized memory in Act I, and a flustered adult in Act II, wanting to reach out but not knowing the best way.
The ensemble embodied Christopher's thoughts and real people he encountered. Working together to illustrate the play, the ensemble used acrobatics and blocking to create Christopher's house and the train station. Moving as one to illustrate the movement of a train, and breaking apart again to form a bustling crowd, the ensemble kept the play moving with high energy.
The technical aspects of the show were skillfully executed to demonstrate the inner life of Christopher. Lighting, led by Johnathan Breaux, used specific colors to signify Christopher's mental state. Red was a good color. Yellow, bad. White was used for dreamy space sequences, along with fiber optic curtains and star cutouts. Special effects designers, Leah Weinraub and Brooke Hander, created huge projections and animations of Christopher's thoughts in stark black and white. Sound, guided by Olivia Condit, Tori Layton, and Sophia Baez, highlighted the feelings of Christopher with high-pitched whines occurring whenever he was overwhelmed. A student-edited soundtrack supported the action on stage, with loud music in the train station, and video game-like tunes when Christopher played Tetris.
Christopher always liked looking up at the stars because they were far away. Sometimes he felt very small, and that was nice. If he had difficult things in his life, they could be considered negligible. Christopher was judged by many people in his world, but he persisted. As he listed his achievements and future dreams at the end of the play, he said, "I can do these things…I was brave." Christopher launched his own story, and unapologetically led the way for others to do the same.
Quince Orchard High School
You know when you stare up at a starry sky on a particularly clear and dark night? Gazing into the milky cosmos, you get lost in the majesty of it all. The power of the stars and their simultaneous tranquility serve as a beautiful reminder of how vast our universe is, and how small we are by comparison. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Robinson Secondary School truly captured the wonder of the stars, with moments of quiet and introspection woven among moments of energy and force.
The play follows a 15-year-old autistic boy named Christopher who lives with his dad, Ed, and a pet rat, Toby. Christopher's world is shaken when his neighbor's dog is murdered and he, while innocent, becomes the initial suspect. In his quest to find out who really killed the dog, he uncovers some brutal family secrets. The play, based on a book of the same name by Mark Haddon, debuted in 2013 at the National Theater in London (captained by playwright Simon Stevens and director Marianne Elliot). It later transferred to Broadway, winning the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.
The play is typically helmed by its lead actor, as we're shown the world through Christopher's perspective. The role itself demands great skill, requiring quiet, emotional instances (such as when Christopher reads his allegedly dead mother's letters) as well as the louder meltdowns (anytime Christopher is touched) and impeccable comedic delivery. Harry MacInnis took on the role with acting chops to rival the pros, adopting the idiosyncrasies of an autistic character with not only realism, but sensitivity. With every twitch, shaky breath, or tortured groan, MacInnis granted insight into everything the character was feeling and invited the audience to experience it alongside him, leaving a shortage of dry eyes in the packed auditorium. While Christopher was the defining character of the work, a body of supporting characters and ensemble members contributed significantly to the world-building (literally), contorting with impressive synchronicity to act as a door or a train or even ocean waves. Highlights of the supporting cast included Amari Lewis as Ed and Taegan Pratt as Judy (Christopher's father and mother, respectively). Both actors showcased duality in the gentleness with which they approached the anxious Christopher and their eventual frustration when met with deterrent, illustrating not only the struggles of living with autism, but also the trials faced by those with loved ones on the spectrum.
Lastly, the technological aspects of the show truly solidified its greatness. The lighting and projections designers-- Johnathan Breaux, Brooke Hanser, and Leah Weinraub-- encapsulated Christopher's physical and emotional journey phenomenally through yellow lights (Christopher's most hated color) that signified unsavory occurrences, colorful light-up blocks, projections that illustrated Christopher's every thought, and beautiful starry scenes. Every element of tech and performance culminated to tell a beautiful story of human emotion, one as impactful and fascinating as the night sky.