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Review: ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ soars with visual magic at Manoa Valley Theatre

  • COURTESY MANOA VALLEY THEATRE Christopher Boone (Dylan Chase Lee) has a quiet moment with his father, Ed Boone (Jim Aina), in Manoa Valley Theatre’s contemporary mystery.

    COURTESY MANOA VALLEY THEATRE

    Christopher Boone (Dylan Chace Lee) has a quiet moment with his father, Ed Boone (Jim Aina), in Manoa Valley Theatre’s contemporary mystery.

The story is triggered by a gruesome crime.

Christopher Boone, a self-styled “mathematical genius with behavioral problems,” who is somewhere on the autism spectrum, discovers that Wellington, his neighbor’s dog, is dead. Someone killed Wellington with a garden fork.

Wellington’s violent death disrupts the meticulously structured world Christopher has constructed for himself. It doesn’t make sense and it isn’t right. It also offends his sense of justice. Killing Wellington was wrong. The person who killed Wellington must be found. When that person is found, they must be brought to justice.

The world is a scary place for a 15-year-old who doesn’t like any changes at all in his daily routine, who loves the color red and hates the colors brown and yellow, who doesn’t like to make eye contact with people and who gets violent when people touch him. However, as Christopher seeks the identity of the dog killer, he discovers things that force him out of his personal safe zone.

Dylan Chace Lee stars as Christopher in Manoa Valley Theatre’s Hawaii-premiere production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Christopher finds comfort in strict regimentation and “melts down” loudly and violently when his surroundings become over-stimulating or too demanding. Lee delivers a painfully realistic performance.

Jim Aina (Ed) and Therese Olival (Judy) are beautifully cast as Christopher’s parents. Aina and Olival portray between them the stressful situations that are certainly experienced in real life by many parents as they attempt to accommodate the needs of an autistic child.

Emily Wright (Siobhan) is an adorable angel of mercy as Christopher’s sympathetic school adviser — Siobhan is also Christopher’s guide through the story-within-a-story that unfolds out of the story the theater audience is watching.

Ann Brandman, Grey Buxton, Sara Malia Hatfield, Athena K. Iokepa, Adrian Khactu and Mathias Maas play assorted secondary “voices.” Hatfield steps out of the ensemble as the dog’s owner, Maas as the woman’s estranged husband and Brandman as a kindly neighbor lady.

Lee’s performance gets powerful enhancement by the elaborate video projections created by Robert Matsushita, the coordinated sound effects designed by Jason Taglianetti, and by Jonah Bobilin’s lighting designs. The tech crew’s work brings the audience much more deeply into what Christopher experiences as he seeks his way through the confusion of the outer world and unfamiliar words like “quid” (the English pound note) and “tube” (the subway).

Director Rob Duval also makes imaginative use of cast members, choreography and sound effects. For instance, one actor plays the door of the apartment in a scene where Christopher returns home, and moves with appropriate sound effects when he opens it.

Word to the wise: Do not leave the theater until Christopher has explained how he solved his favorite question on his “A level” math exam.

‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’

>> Where: Manoa Valley Theatre, 2833 E. Manoa Road

>> When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 9

>> Cost: $40 general admission ($35 seniors and military w/ ID; $22 age 25 and younger)

>> Info: manoavalleytheatre.com or 988-6131

>> Note: Minimum age 13

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