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Bob Goepfert Reviews "A Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time" At Proctors

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” which is at Proctors Theater in Schenectady through Sunday, is a remarkable piece of theater.  It’s that rare work that has you leaving the performance a changed and enlightened person.

But don’t worry, it does this without preaching.   “Curious Incident” is extremely entertaining as it tells a compelling story that is in equal parts a mystery, a journey and an exploration of what makes every individual unique.   
Christopher is a 15 year old boy who is blamed for killing a neighborhood dog.  He has a difficult time defending himself because though extremely intelligent – in some ways brilliant - his brain does not function the same way as does everyone else’s.  He lives in his own world which isolates him from all others.  He cannot talk to strangers, he panics if touched and he depends on ritual behavior to get through the day.  The precision in the way he thinks can be unnerving to others.  When told to be quiet – he asks “For how long?”
Christopher decides that the only solution to clear himself is by finding out who did kill the dog.  So starts the journey of a young man who has never before left his neighborhood on the outskirts of London.   This is a monumental task as it means he must leave the comfortable structure of a life that offers him security.  To succeed he must find a way to get to London-proper where he will experience the randomness of the harsh, loud and confusing outside world.  
As Christopher meets challenge after challenge we gain admiration for the young man. One of the beauties of “Curious Incident” is that as Christopher explores the world that is familiar to us, the more we understand the isolated world in which he exists. It is the play’s ability to make the audience feel and understand the complete helpless that Christopher endures is what makes the play so unique.  How the boy overcomes those obstacles is what gives its heart.
Any fan of Sherlock Holmes knows there are few mysteries that are ever solved without discovering more mysteries and the process not only leads to solving the crime, it results in surprising revelations.  As Christopher travels to London he discovers secrets that will change his life and the lives of the people in his life.
The staging of the show is often astounding.  Played on a huge geometric black box it is a technical marvel that offers moments of awe and pleasure.  The special effects never overpower the story. Instead it permits the audience to get inside Christopher’s head to understand the constant disorientation that he lives with.   
The play uses every technique of theater to tell this story but none is more impactful than the subtle portrayals that find the essence of every character.  The three main people in Christopher’s life – his father, mother and teacher show the patience needed to nurture a special person. However, they also signal that caring for such a person is not always easy and is often filled with stress. 
A talented ensemble, all of whom play multiple roles, are terrific in showing how strangers can be kind and how sometimes it is difficult to recognize that a need is special.
The role of Christopher is a brute. It is to theater what a decathlon is to sports.  It demands endurance, stamina and focus.   Adam Langdon brings all these qualities to the role, along with a sensitivity that makes the character both endearing and inspiring.  (The role is so demanding it will be shared with Benjamin Wheelwright who will alternate on certain weekend performances.)
The only caution flag to be raised is to know that the play takes 2 ½ hours to perform and the sensitivity of the story – which is not always linear - demands the audience be active partners in the presentation.   It’s worth the effort.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at Proctors Theatre, Schenectady through Sunday.  For tickets and schedule call 518-346-6204.
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management. 

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