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Playhouse Square’s “The Curious Incident” takes us on a voyage inside an exceptional mind

As audience members seated themselves in the Connor Palace for the production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” they emitted sounds of surprise as they surveyed the stage. The performance area consisted of a large open ended black box that covers the entire stage area in which intersecting grid lines cover the top, sides, floor and back wall. In the middle of the floor lay a rather large long haired dog of indeterminable breed. At first the animal appeared to be sleeping until you noticed the large gardening fork that is protruding from the dog’s body. It is then that it is realized that the dog is dead.

As the play begins, a young man is kneeling at the tail end of the dog gently stroking his fur. The dog’s name is (or was) Wellington. The young man is Christopher and this dramatic play is his story. Christopher appears to have a number of symptoms that are related to Asperger’s Syndrome. He does not like to be touched. Loud noises upset him greatly. He avoids eye contact. Certain colors (yellow and brown in particular) bother him. He is incapable of lying and gets upset when other people lie to him. Christopher notes, “Dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.” When confronted with a problem he cannot solve or reason with he becomes very vocal then collapses into himself. His brain is never at rest.

On the plus side he is a savant mathematical genius having memorized every prime number up to 7,507. He can solve complex mathematical problems that would baffle many of us. While he may not be able to describe your face he can tell much about you in detail including your shoes, your clothing and your scent.

Christopher has been accused by his neighbor of killing Wellington (her dog). Unable to tell a lie Christopher tells her he did not do it. Police are summoned and when the officer tries to put a hand on Christopher he panics and lashes out ending up at the police station accused of attacking the police officer. His father has to go there in order to explain and pick up his son.

Christopher lives with his father who is presumably widowed. In order to clear his name, Christopher sets out to find the dog’s killer using pure logic. He begins by interviewing various neighbors (something he is not comfortable with). Along the way he discovers that his father has betrayed him in a number of ways while trying to overly protect him. A large part of the second act deals with the reconciliation between the two. In the end he is able to solve the crime, pass his A-Level math exam (through the encouragement of his mentor), travel with his pet rat, Toby, from his home in Swindon to London and write a book that later his school turns into a play Not bad for someone who takes life completely literally.

The set serves as a sort of screen of Christopher’s inner mind as images, signs, words and math equations flash by at lightning speed while the speaker system is overworked to show the effect of what we consider general background noise has on his psyche.

The cast is quite up to speed for this production. Opening night had Christopher portrayed by Adam Langdon who will be sharing the role’s duties with Benjamin Wheelwright. To the uneducated eye Adam has the role well in hand as he portrays a young man of fifteen attempting to cope with the world on his terms while situations that the rest of us are able to filter out or ignore altogether become very real and overwhelming in Christopher mind.

Of special note are the visual special effects, props and sounds that build to various climaxes ending in Christopher’s total withdraw from the outside world. You find your own thought patterns altered as you witness his inner workings of the brain. Although it did not win the Tony for choreography (the only one of the six nominations) the body movements employed are brilliant as Christopher dreams of becoming an astronaut and floats at ease in space or takes a stroll around the three walls.

The Broadway show won five out of six Tony Awards, six out of six Drama Desk Awards, one out of two Drama League Awards, five out of six Outer Critics Circle Awards and seven Olivier Awards.

The rest of the cast made up of Charlotte Maier, Maria Elena Ramirez, Brian Robert Burns, John Hemphill, Gene Gillette, Geoffrey Wade, Francisca Choy-Kee, Amelia White, Felicity Jones Latta, Robyn Kerr and J. Paul Nicholas share the remaining 33 parts as well as the ensemble.

There is some language mixed through the play and the flashing images, strobe lights and high impact sounds may be disconcerting to some who are sensitive to such.

This is a coming of age story about a sheltered young man attempting to strike out on his own in spite of his handicaps by using the talents that he has been blessed with in order to function in the real world. Combining lights, sound and choreography with exceptional acting it paints a clearer picture of the lives of these least understood members of society. It leaves lots of room for post show discussion.

Tickets for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” which runs through April 9, 2017 at the Connor Palace, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or by going to

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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