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May 24, 2024

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Ben Friesen (as Christopher) and Nate MacIntyre (as his father) repeatedly try to connect and understand each other.

Theater Review: A Fascinating ‘Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’

Nashville Repertory celebrates those able to see things from a different angle.

Nashville Repertory Theatre presents
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
based on the novel by Mark Haddon; adapted by Simon Stephens

Andrew Johnson Theater, TPAC
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 • tpac.org

 

“As it happens, when I was putting Christopher together I drew upon a long list of beliefs, habits, quirks and behaviors which I borrowed from friends and acquaintances and members of my own family. It would be unfair of me to name the person who can’t eat a plate of food if the broccoli and salmon are touching, or the person who can’t use a toilet if a stranger has used it … Christopher is not that different from the rest of us. It’s the number and combination of his eccentricities which cause him difficulties.”

— Mark Hammond, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, writing for his publisher, Penguin, on the origins behind his smash hit

 

In the splicing and dicing of our label-crazed society, I’d venture to say that we’re all on the great emotional spectrum of life somewhere with all of the tics, anxieties and ups and downs that come with it. Life is trouble and some of us just function better at it than others. So the real question is, in a world where seemingly “normal” folk can hide who they are behind an outer “mask,” isn’t it refreshing that 15-year-old Christopher can’t? We can see everything that he is: he’s quirky, mathematically gifted, keenly aware of his ability to see all. He’s emotionally remote and apt to flail wildly at the slightest physical touch, but he cannot pretend. He’s incapable of telling a lie.

A Mystery Unfolds

The play opens with Christopher (in a remarkable, charming and fully owned portrayal by Ben Friesen) sitting beside his neighbor’s dead dog, Wellington, impaled by a garden pitch fork. Christopher’s fair-minded, and he decides to play amateur detective to uncover Wellington’s killer. In doing so, he discovers a thornier personal mystery that takes him to London in a journey far outside his comfort zone. I won’t reveal what Christopher learns — that’s the juicy matter that should take you to the theater!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Ben Friesen is remarkable as 15-year-old Christopher in Nashville Rep’s fifth production of their 38th season.

Curious Incident works well as staged in the Johnson Theater black box; it provides an element of intimacy for winding through Christopher’s mind (enhanced by projections onto a back wall which resembles giant graph paper). Actors move blocks in and out for scenes, otherwise the stage is empty. This play marks Micah-Shane Brewer’s first directorial outing since being named Artistic Director of the Rep. We’re thrilled to see the beloved regional company in such deft and sure hands at last. Act 1 moved swimmingly along; Act 2 has a few sags and we would have loved to see the actors group-simulate the jiggle and jerk of a train ride during Christopher’s jarring trip to London; a crescendo was needed. One other matter was the very ending — a joyous moment — made a tad less realized due to the dark lighting.

Stellar Acting

The ensemble is very strong and all employ British accents, if a bit unevenly. As Christopher’s father, Nat McIntyre portrays a struggling dad without sentimentality; Kristine Chandler Kim portrays numerous roles including the pissed-off Mrs. Shears (owner of Wellington) and her one-line deliveries per character land with perfectly timed aplomb. Dennis Elkins brings wry humor to his several roles; and as the needy neighbor, Mrs. Alexander, Wesley Paine taps into the cloying well of busy-body loneliness.  Other stand-out performances include the soothing Sejal Mehta as Siobhan (Christopher’s teacher and mentor); Lauren Berst as Christopher’s eager, baffled mother (but why does she wear shoes for a dip in the ocean?); and in numerous roles played with his trademark intensity — especially as the menacing Mr. Shears — Eric D. Pasto-Crosby.

The Rep turns out a terrific production all in all — and one that forces you to take on the point of view of someone very special yet not so different from us all. We all benefit when we look at the world through another’s unique lens.

 

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About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.