Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on Broadway
It’s probably foolhardy to say so in September, after seeing a preview performance, but Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is this year’s best play. I can’t remember the last time I saw a show that was so gloriously, relentlessly inventive.
Having not read Mark Haddon’s book, the story was new to me, but it’s clear the tale has good bones. The novel’s gimmick, much buzzed-about upon its release, is that the mystery is told from the point of view of a boy with Aspergers. The stage version upholds this convention in imaginative ways.
Gridlines bound the stage on all sides, like building-scale graph paper. It places the other characters–and the audience–squarely (ha, ha) within the protagonist’s hyper-literal frame of reference. But one of the joys of this stage adaptation is the quirky brand of dramatic irony this engenders: we see the characters from within protagonist Christopher’s point-of-view, and we experience the unfolding of the story through his narration, but we also see the characters for ourselves, and so sometimes arrive at different conclusions about their qualities and motivations.
I can’t say enough about the quality of the stagecraft: a set that initially appears mathematical and sterile turns out to reveal endless wonders. I’m not giving any of them away here, but I will say when you think you’ve seen every trick possible out of this stage, you’re about to see something you couldn’t imagine. The projection is also at a level I’ve never seen before. (The ability to project onto an actual grid probably helps!)
Similar to the pleasure of seeing the other characters simultaneously from Christopher’s Aspergers-colored point of view and from your own, there’s a great narrative trick to the first act: Christopher is trying to solve a conventional mystery (that of the dog, killed in the night with a “garden fork.”) But there quickly appears a second mystery; this second one is mysterious mainly to Christopher. Because of his concrete way of thinking, he’s missed a lot of clues about what has gone on in his own home. It’s an ingenious and tremendously satisfying way to tell a story: what’s obvious to the audience is seldom obvious to the protagonist, and the stakes are immense.
Alexander Sharp, who had not quite graduated from Julliard when he got this part, will be a Broadway star. The role of Christopher is a challenging combination of emotion and emotionlessness, and is often quite physical. Sharp’s portrayal is sensitive and adept and joyful. As confident that I am that this show will be this year’s Best Play, I am more confident still that Sharp’s this year’s Best Actor. The entire cast is first-rate, though, and the direction is superb. I was giddy at intermission because the show is so good, and I couldn’t wait to see what was next.
How to Get Cheap Tickets
Rear orchestra tickets are available for all performances for $27. I went to the box office at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon and these were sold out, but I managed to get $37 box seats. My guess is that once this show opens and the reviews come out, it’s going to be next to impossible to get those rear mezz seats anytime soon.
The boxes were a little angle-obstructed, but not too bad–although I would guess that the rear mezz seats are slightly preferable, because you’d get a more straight-on view of the grid. I recommend height for this show, though–there’s a lot that happens on the floor of the stage, and it’s nice to have a little perspective on it.