South Lakes High School
Navigating the world is hard enough as a teenager, and even more so when you take on the burden of solving the mystery of your neighbor's dog's murder. But when you cannot trust strangers, the nice old lady next door, or even your own family, who can you turn to? Chantilly High School explored the heavy themes of family, betrayal, and independence with maturity and humor in their production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a play based on a novel by Mark Haddon with the same name. It was adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens and premiered in the Royal National Theatre in London on August 2, 2012. The production was moved to the Apollo Theatre in the West End in 2013 where it garnered 7 Olivier Awards. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time premiered on Broadway in October 2014 and proceeded to win a Tony Award in 2015 for Best Play, along with other accolades.
Christopher, a 15-year-old math whiz with autism, found his neighbor's dog Wellington murdered in her garden and was determined to fully expose the culprit. While Christopher's father pleaded with him to drop the case, Christopher only dug deeper into the mystery and discovered some disturbing information about his family on the way. When Christopher was confronted with the truth about his father's lies, he fled to the only other place he could. But did Christopher have the strength to face the challenges of independence, or was the world around him too alien to confront?
Jack Wolff, who shouldered the role of Christopher, kept high vocal and physical energy for the entirety of the show– a challenging feat in such a demanding role. His projection and variation in his delivery of lines ensured that the audience was captivated by the actions and motivations of Christopher.
Similarly, Will Sanfilippo, who portrayed Christopher's father, ‘Ed', brilliantly juggled the many emotional moments that accompanied his character. Sanfilippo managed to depict a kind father desperate to connect with his son in one breath and an angry, jealous one in the next.
The last member of the family that completed its complicated dynamic was Judy, played by Ella Ostlund. Ostlund approached the difficult role with grace and understanding, perfectly expressing the complexity of a mother through the emotional monologues' deliveries and realistic but carefully crafted body language.
What also enchanted the stage in this performance were the many projections and lighting techniques created by Sam Cole, Sam Ryu and Todd Yalong that enriched the show's atmosphere and message. Two great examples of their design expertise were the use of silhouettes when the parents of Christopher were silently arguing with each other and the projections of stars and galaxies in Christopher's space fantasy. In both these scenes, the technical lighting and special effects enhanced the ability to relate to the characters and fully immerse themselves into the story.
An appraisal of this show would not be complete without acknowledging the work of Chantilly's stage management team. The many lighting and sound cues of the production were executed with attention and skill by Sarah Dodson and Rachel Shear.
Overall, the work displayed by Chantilly's students in this heart wrenching and simultaneously heartwarming depiction of familial love and perseverance is worth recognition and admiration. Truly, when one puts their mind to it, they "can do anything."
Duke Ellington School of the Arts
"Father killed Wellington, and if he killed him that means he can kill me." This is just one moment that provided insight into Christopher Boone's perspective, which Chantilly High School's Drama Department showed in their production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on April 22, 2023. From the ingenious use of projections and character-driven lighting to the ensemble's consistent commitment to their roles, this performance provided insight into the mind of Christopher Boone and told the story of how he solved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was based off the book of the same name, written by British author Mark Haddon. The play, written by Simon Stephens, premiered at the Royal National Theater in London on August 2, 2012. The show won a record number of Olivier Awards at the time, and along with many other award recognitions, won the coveted 2015 Tony for Best Play. The show is narrated by 15-year-old Christopher Boone (Jack Wolff), who is autistic and a math genius. He tries to solve the murder of Wellington, a dog that was impaled by a garden fork. During his investigation, he discovers that his father, Ed (Will Sanfilippo), lied to him about the death of his mother, Judy (Ella Ostlund). He thought his mother had been dead for the past two years, but instead, she was alive and had left with the neighbor's spouse. Ultimately, he also discovers that his father murdered Wellington. Christopher grapples with these discoveries, his whole world having been turned upside-down from the murder of a dog.
Jack Wolff's character choices added to the complexity of Christopher Boone, including consistently stimming, something people with mental illnesses might do to express or regulate their emotions, and avoiding eye contact and physical touch with others. Even during moments when the spotlight wasn't on him, he stayed committed to his character and his reactions. Another present voice in the play is Siobhan (Alex Lesnik), Christopher's guidance counselor. Lesnik and Wolff had amazing chemistry, and Lesnik was able to play the role of Christopher's safe space excellently, along with consistent accent work. Christopher's mother, played by Ella Ostlund, struggled to deal with parenting an autistic child. She consistently strives to be better but is often a victim to her flaws and her selfish wants. Ostlund played this complex character beautifully and was able to portray unspoken feelings, bringing the script and the character to life.
The technical team met the challenge of making the stage a visual interpretation of Christopher Boone's worldview. The use of projections, led by students Sam Cole and Sam Ryu, transformed the acting area and helped define the setting of each scene. In the sequence during which Christopher was daydreaming about outer space, the auditorium ceiling and the stage illuminated galaxy images, fully immersing the audience in Christopher's imagination. The lighting, by Sam Ryu, used various colors that reflected Christopher's emotions: yellow was used as a color to signify stress, a negative emotion, because Christopher doesn't like yellow and, therefore, he has a negative connotation with the color.
Chantilly High School's Drama Department's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time brought the audience into the mind of Christopher Boone and how he dealt with the mysteries and complexities of life. From the technical team's intricate attention to detail to immerse the audience, to the actors' commitment to their roles, this play makes the audience care about the mysteries of Christopher Boone's life beyond the murder of Wellington.