Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Phoenix Theatre Company
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of John Loves Mary, The Royale and Friday the 13th, the Parody Musical


Greg Nussen and Michael Kary
Photo by Reg Madison Photography
The theatrical adaptation of Mark Haddon's bestselling book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won numerous awards in London and on Broadway, including the Tony Award for Best Play. The well-crafted drama is a detective story and also an emotional family drama that beautifully depicts through visual imagery and sound effects the inner workings of the thought processes of a teenage boy with developmental issues. The play makes its local Phoenix premiere in an engaging, intimate, and emotionally moving production at the Phoenix Theatre Company

Using dialogue from Haddon's novel and sticking to its plot fairly closely, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time focuses on 15-year-old Christopher Boone and begins as he sets about trying to solve the murder of his neighbor's dog. Christopher, who always tells the truth, soon discovers from his investigation several secrets and lies that involve his family and that make him question his life and the people he thought he knew.

The play incorporates a combination of straight-forward, clean and concise dialogue and well-defined characters to give the audience an up-close, personal view into what goes on inside Christopher's mind. While Haddon never specifically stated in his book what developmental disorder Christopher has, the symptoms as depicted in the play are similar to autism. The book and Stephens's stage adaptation afford a better understanding of how someone like Christopher struggles with human emotions while having to navigate through changing family dynamics and a world in which most people don't have much sympathy for someone who is different.

The intimate setting of the Hormel Theatre stage at Phoenix Theatre provides an immediate connection between the audience and the actors, and Karla Koskinen's direction derives realistic and emotionally raw performances from the incredibly talented cast.

Greg Nussen is a revelation as Christopher. It's clear from his performance, which is infused with logic but also excitable outbursts and physical ticks and lacking in almost any emotion, that Christopher is highly intelligent but also completely uncomfortable with any human physical connection. Nussen's performance is childlike at times, which adds to the realistic portrayal of Christopher's young age, yet he shows his ability to quickly recite lists of numbers and mathematical equations, illustrating just how smart this young man is. It's a beautiful, moving and utterly convincing performance.

With well-nuanced portrayals, Michael Kary and Kelly Pekar are perfect as Christopher's complicated but truly caring parents. The scenes they share with Nussen, which include moments that show they are desperately hoping for a clear sense of bonding and human connection with their son, are heartbreaking, as Christopher can't bear anything more than to have their fingertips touch. With a calm and soothing nature, Elizabeth Brownlee Blair is full of kindness and humanity as Christopher's schoolteacher, and Cathy Dresbach plays other small parts, showing compassion as one of Christopher's neighbors.

The creative aspects are superb, with the use of stylized and imaginative choreography by Jordan Daniels and the combination of Douglas Clarke's sleek set design with the vibrant lighting by Kristen Peterson and imaginative video design by Stephanie Busing providing clear and distinct imagery to help us visualize Christopher's thought processes. This explosion of visual aspects, along with Daniel Peterson's sound design and Christopher Colucci's musical score, immerse the audience in non-stop visual and aural elements that take them inside Christopher's mind. The creative elements work very well to depict how someone with a developmental disorder is bombarded with sights and sounds in daily events that most people take for granted, such as walking through a train station and boarding the London Underground.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a thought-provoking work full of insight, and Phoenix Theatre Company's production has a very gifted cast, accomplished direction, and superb creative designs that make for an immersive, engaging, and emotionally rewarding experience.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs through November 10, 2019 at The Phoenix Theatre Company, at 1825 N Central Avenue, Phoenix AZ. Tickets can be purchased at phoenixtheatre.com or by calling 602-254-2151

Written by Simon Stephens
Based on the Novel by Mark Haddon

Director: Karla Koskinen
Choreographer: Jordan Daniels
Scenic Designer: Douglas Clarke
Costume Designer: Sara Lindsey
Lighting Designer: Kristen Peterson
Video Designer: Stephanie Busing
Sound Design by Daniel Peterson, based on a design by Christopher Colucci
Original Music by Christopher Colucci
Dialect Coach: Pasha Yamotahari
Hair and Makeup Designer: Terre Steed
Properties Master: Rebecca Bandy

Cast:
Christopher: Greg Nussen*
Ed: Michael Kary*
Judy: Kelly Pekar*
Siobhan: Elizabeth Brownlee Blair
Voice 1: Amie Bjorklund
Voice 2: Marshall Glass
Voice 3: Jason M. Hammond
Voice 4: Scott Davidson*
Voice 5: Michelle Chin*
Voice 6: Cathy Dresbach*

*Members of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors & stage managers in the U.S.


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