‘Curious incident’ explores sensory overload as a youth seeks to solve a mystery
“CURIOUS INCIDENT” follows the experiences of a 15-year-old as he investigates the death of a neighbor’s dog and his experiences dealing with his parents, his school adviser and other people outside his personal safe zone.
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With years of critically acclaimed, crowd-pleasing performances as an actor and director, Rob Duval has earned the right to take it easy, concentrate on his professional responsibilities teaching theater and directing student productions at ‘Iolani, and enjoy his nights and weekends at home. It takes work that he finds particularly interesting to get him to come out and direct a community theater show.
Manoa Valley Theatre’s upcoming production of playwright Simon Stephens’ Tony Award-winning drama, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” has what it takes.
The show opens Jan. 23, with Duval as director.
“Theater is all about experiencing something from someone else’s perspective, and this is more than just seeing a play,” Duval said last week, at the Manoa theatre during rehearsal.
“You’re actually seeing, feeling, empathizing and sympathizing with a character that we might not relate to — a character different from what we’re used to,” he said. “But by the end of the play we really do relate to him. That journey is what fascinated me.”
“CURIOUS INCIDENT” follows the experiences of a 15-year-old Christopher Boone as he investigates the death of a neighbor’s dog — which he finds lying dead, speared with a pitchfork — and his experiences dealing with his parents, his school adviser and other people outside his personal safe zone. It first appeared as a novel by Mark Haddon in 2003 and then was adapted for the stage in 2013.
The original English stage production won seven Olivier Awards in 2013, and the Broadway production won five Tony Awards including Best Play in 2015.
At Manoa Valley Theatre, Dylan Chace Lee stars as Christopher, a mathematical genius with “behavioral problems,” with Jim Aina and Therese Olival as his parents, and Emily Wright as his sympathetic school adviser. Grey Buxton, Sara Malia Hatfield, Athena Iokepa, Adrian Khactu and Mathias Maas play secondary characters.
Christopher is usually described as being on the autism spectrum, but Duval notes that the author of the original novel has said that the story is about being an outsider and is not about autism or Asperger syndrome.
“It’s never indicated or stated; however a lot of what Christopher experiences, or the symptoms of his being, seem to fit the autism spectrum,” Duval said.
“He’s very sensitive to touch. He doesn’t make eye contact a lot with people, and he only likes things if they’re a certain color. He’s very organized and methodical and doesn’t like change, so there are a number of things that indicate that he is probably on the autism spectrum.”
CHRISTOPHER IS an early suspect in the dog’s death. An encounter with a police officer does not go well, but after being released, Christopher embarks on a search to find the killer and bring justice to the situation.
He perseveres in his investigation despite resistance he encounters from some of his neighbors and against the wishes of his father.
“The death of a neighbor’s dog disrupts his world, so he can’t continue to function without understanding how this happened, and who did this.
“They should be punished because that’s the way of the world, but there’s really something else he’s looking for,” Duval said, cryptically.
Mystery aside, audiences will see in Christopher “the wonder of his character, the sense of humor that comes out, and the anger and the curiosity, as he searches” for the culprit, Duval said.
“He is a really well-developed, well-rounded character.”
While the novel is written as Christopher’s first-person narrative of his experiences, the staged version is presented as a play within a play. Action commences in the inner play as Christopher’s teacher begins to read Christopher’s own story about the incident and his investigation.
Duval calls this “metatheatricality.”
“This is not completely realism,” he said. “There are elements that are spectacular. There are elements that are very theatrical. … The tech elements are going to be fascinating, once we add all the video elements, the lighting and the sound.
“The audience is experiencing the world through Christopher’s experience as he sees it, and the audience will see what Christopher is seeing: sensory overload.”
“THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME”
Presented by Manoa Valley Theatre
>> Where: 2833 E. Manoa Road
>> When: 7:30 p.m. Jan 23; continues 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 9
>> Cost: $22-$40
>> Info: 988-6131, manoavalleytheatre.com