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Oct 21, 2016

Mind Games

Greenville Journal

By Cindy Landrum

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a journey into a world most of the audience will never experience personally.

It’s the world of Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy who is exceptionally intelligent but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. Although it’s never explicitly stated, Christopher’s condition seems similar to an autism spectrum disorder. The national tour of the 2015 Tony Award winner for Best New Play uses the set to put the audience in Christopher’s head through the set’s precise, confining grid pattern of the walls, something designed to pay homage to the boy’s love of science, math and graph paper. Math formulas, cities and constellations are projected onto the walls, lights flash and discordant percussive noises to illustrate the chaos.

“On stage, you get the sensory overload he’s going through,” said Gene Gillette, the actor who plays Ed, Christopher’s father. “I think the story gives a beautiful understanding of other people and what they’re going through.”

“Curious Incident” is the second national touring Broadway play in which Gillette has been cast. He also appeared in “War Horse,” which made a stop in Greenville in 2013. Both are plays that were adapted from young adult novels.

“It doesn’t sugarcoat things,” he said. “[Young adults] don’t need things sugarcoated. I just look back at the things they go through in high school, junior high. They were so awful, often more so than anything they’ll go through in adulthood.”

And “Curious Incident” has been successful on Broadway because it is a story to which everybody can relate, he said.

“It has a lot of universal themes. There are some pretty brutal parts of the play,” he said. “It’s really a beautiful family story and a truthful one.” Christopher lives with his father, a guy who just lost his wife and is trying to learn how to be a single parent. “He doesn’t always make the best decisions,” Gillette said.

Christopher finds his neighbor’s dog, which was killed with a pitchfork. After briefly being suspected of the killing, the boy sets out to find the culprit. In the course of his detective work, Christopher discovers some family secrets – including that his mother was not dead as he had been told, but instead had run off with the man next door, and that his parents’ marriage had fallen apart partly because of the strain of caring for him.

“It’s really unique theater. It has a beautiful story. It has gorgeous direction. It has amazing movement,” Gillette said. “It’s not a two-person, living-room play. It’s a sensory overwhelming experience.”

5 facts about “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

  • The idea of the light-up dots or pixels in the floor, illustrating Christopher’s came from the film “The Matrix.”
  • Five tons of steel are used in the walls and floor.
  • All of the music in the show is based on prime number sequences.
  • The video cabling is of military grade to assure the show moves smoothly between venues.
  • There are 234 sound cues made up of 2,593 different elements.