Cast and crew were in top form for Wednesday’s dress rehearsal as Showtimers prepared to open its only weekend with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
With the original opening canceled due to COVID, Showtimers will conclude its Saturday and Sunday performances, with the addition of an additional performance on Sunday nights.
Based on a 2003 novel by British writer Mark Haddon, the play tells the story of a brilliant but clumsy teenager who discovers his neighbor’s dog has been killed. Realizing he’s a suspect, he sets out to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington himself, but his efforts threaten to turn his world upside down.
Showtimers is once again pushing boundaries (in a good way) with this production.
A bare, wide-open set contains little more than a few black wooden cubes, which are moved as needed to represent different objects. The walls resemble a computer motherboard, which the audience quickly realizes is entirely appropriate for a story about a boy whose beautiful mind has its own way of processing the world around him. And kudos to the multimedia team for the images on the projection screen at the back of the stage, which offer a video version of a painted background, sometimes still, sometimes in motion, that helps convey each scene in which the action takes place clarify.
Then there is the theme, which is intended solely for an adult audience. Even setting aside the occasional salty language, themes of betrayal, abandonment, grief and more make for an intense emotional ride.
Connor Wheeler has a monumental task portraying 15-year-old Christopher, who not only appears in almost every moment of the show, but must also portray a youth who’s (for lack of a better word) on the spectrum — and he does a fantastic job .
Joel Gruver is strong as Christopher’s world-weary father trying his best to be the single father of a challenging child. Jamie Stewart is surprisingly likable as Christopher’s mother, with a heartbreaking monologue that helps the audience and Christopher understand what’s been going on in the family. As Christopher’s teacher, Siobhan, Kelly Anglim brings a welcome balance to an otherwise explosive plot. Her role includes lengthy narrative passages that help put all the pieces together.
The balance of this terrific cast weaves into and out of the storyline, both as major characters and as faces in the crowd. Julie Wheeler (Connor’s real-life mother) radiates bitterness as the neighbor whose dog was killed. Susan Singleton as Mrs. Alexander is exactly the kind of friendly neighbor you would choose when there was a surprising secret that needed to be uncovered. Halea Fowler, Gene Marrano, Jeremy Ratliff and Deena Sasser all provide supporting roles in which they create great characterizations even in brief moments on stage. And everyone in the cast uses British accents to good effect.
Though the mystery surrounding Wellington’s death is solved before the show ends, there are other loose ends to tie, and this otherwise heavy drama manages to arrive at a rather hopeful place.
Also, be sure to read director Corey Stewart’s notes in the program about the very personal journey that led to this amazing production.