Zach Theatre's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

This dazzling production takes us inside the mind of a crime-solving teen on the spectrum

Preston Straus and cast in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Photo by Kirk Tuck)

Imagine a game of Clue in which the victim is a white fluffy dog named Wellington, the scene of the dastardly deed is the neighbor's garden, and the murder weapon is a garden fork. Then, add to that hard-boiled premise a cast of larger-than-life suspects, a plot twist or two, a teen on the autism spectrum turned detective, and a faithful white rat – and you still will not have scratched the surface of Zach Theatre's current offering, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Christopher is having a tough time of things. Not long after being found by a police officer standing over his neighbor's deceased doggie, his father tells him that his mother has died from a heart attack. Determined to solve the crime and clear his name, Christopher interviews neighbors and collects clues, resolved to find out who done it. As he gets closer and closer to the culprit, Christopher begins to uncover secrets about the people around him that fill him with feelings that he cannot process and anxiety he cannot bear. Left with no other choice, Christopher sets out alone for London in search of the love, trust, and safety he so desperately needs – as long as he can get back home to sit for his A-level maths.

Simon Stephens' whip-smart script (adapted from Mark Haddon's multiple award-winning novel) is coaxed into full bloom by a top-notch English-accented ensemble comprised of Katie Kohler, Nick Stevenson, Meredith McCall, André Martin, Dave Yakubik, Lara Wright, and Elise Ogden. Heading up this talented group of artists is Preston Straus, who, as a young actor, already understands that the most important thing about playing Christopher is exploring his humanity as opposed to exaggerating his differences. His honest and genuine performance is engaging, moving, and impressive.

In addition to the fantastic coaching of his cast, Zach Artistic Director Dave Steakley also lets us connect effortlessly with Christopher's thoughts and actions through some very clever tech elements. Although Christopher speaks plenty for himself in this story, and we hear his thoughts in entries from his journal, his emotional state is communicated to us through sound, LED light patterns, projections, and color, allowing the audience to experience the world as he does – as a never-ending onslaught of stimuli. Scenic and projection designer Stephanie Busing's vision, bursting with surprise and spectacle and complete with absolutely seamless set changes and a revolving floor, keeps the show moving at a dizzying pace, and even though it clocks in at two and a half hours, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time seems to be over as quickly as it began, leaving the audience thinking about what it means to be part of a less-than-perfect family, how hard love can hurt, the importance of honesty, the definition of normal, and the Pythagorean Theorem.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Topfer Theatre at Zach, 202 S. Lamar, 512/476-0541
Through March 4
Running time: 2 hr., 30 min.

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Zach Theatre, Dave Steakley, Preston Straus, Nick Stevenson, Meredith McCall, Katie Kohler, Andre Martin, Dave Yakubik, Lara Wright, Elise Ogden, Stephanie Busing, Simon Stephens

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