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Simon Stephens’s theatrical adaptation of Mark Haddon’s mystery novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was the talk of the town in 2015 when it won five Tony Awards (including Best Play), six Drama Desk Awards, and five Outer Critics Circle Awards for outstanding new play — after an equally successful run on the west end in 2013.
The play, produced this spring by the Theatre Group at SBCC, features a teenage protagonist, Christopher (Daniel Sabraw), whose unusual comportments and thought processes infer a level of high-functioning autism. Christopher is nimble with numbers but admits to some (relative to his peer group) behavioral irregularities. He lives with his widowed father and rarely interacts with the world beyond his home.
The mystery begins when Christopher discovers the neighbor’s dog viciously murdered with a pitchfork. The police are called, and Christopher’s odd social tendencies bring him into the suspicious gaze of the authorities. He fixates on solving the murder despite his father’s order to remain uninvolved. Notwithstanding his fears and miscomprehension of the world outside his limited scope, Christopher sets off on an adventure that leads him from his little neighborhood to big-city London and introduces him to a wider, wilder world than he could have invented.
“I’ve loved this play since I saw it at the Apollo Theatre on the West End, and I’m thrilled that SBCC has chosen to produce it in Santa Barbara,” said Samantha Eve, who plays Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher. “It is, first and foremost, a story about being different. Christopher, a neuro-atypical teenage boy, is struggling to make sense of the world around him and build human connections. Like many coming-of-age stories and stories that feature the hero’s journey structure, we watch Christopher venture outside of his comfort zone. He faces conflict and works to overcome it, with the audience’s support every step of the way.”
Siobhan plays a critical role in Christopher’s development. “She works with Christopher to practice life skills, identify and talk through emotions, and not just survive but thrive in a world that can sometimes be loud, illogical, and generally overwhelming,” said Eve. While Siobhan narrates much of the story from a book Christopher has written after the fact about solving the case, this structure sets up a unique dynamic: The narrator is a character who is reading the story for the first time. “As a narrator, you’d understand where the story is going. Siobhan doesn’t. This is new information for her, and reading the book allows her insight into Christopher’s world outside of school. This insight, this glimpse into his head … connects her to him in a meaningful way over the course of the show.”
The audience gets an insider view of Christopher’s experience of the world with the use of creative lighting and sound effects that bring his interior life to the surface. It’s an uplifting story that shows a young character taking agency, building confidence through life experience, and developing optimism for the future. Christopher begins to rebuild his relationship with his father, prepares for college, and gets a dog — positive steps for anyone working toward a more nourishing and meaningful lifestyle.
4•1•1 | The Theatre Group at SBCC presents The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which opens Friday, February 28, and runs through Saturday, March 14. See theatergroupsbcc.com/santa-barbara-theaters-now-playing.