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Christopher (Daniel Sabraw) is a 15-year-old boy on the autism spectrum who discovers the neighbor’s dog murdered with a pitchfork. Though his father (Brian Harwell) insists he ignore the incident, Christopher decides to seek justice for the poor pooch. Sabraw’s performance is unwavering in its commitment to Christopher’s atypical behavior and thought patterns, and made more impressive by the fact that he’s on stage for the entirety of this two-and-a-half hour play. Other members of the talented cast, including Brian Harwell, Samantha Eve, and Clare Carey, play seamlessly off Christopher’s odd behaviors, creating moments of quirky comedy and highlighting the frustrated impotence of people who can neither relate to nor control the behavior of this difficult, yet eager-to-succeed, teenager.
Though the performance was impressive, the character’s numerous breakdowns lacked nuance and variety of intensity. Christopher’s frequent meltdowns include screaming, loss of control, and fetal position rocking, and occur whenever his sense of order is disrupted. This lack of modulation makes the audience question the character’s ability to follow through with his plans to go to college and seek a future of independence. In a play with an emotional culmination based on the audience seeing the evolution in the character necessary for this future to occur, not believing Christopher has the control or wherewithal to live unattended takes satisfaction out of the conclusion.
The Curious Incident is a smart script with dialogue that prompts light, existential musing as the audience becomes attuned to Christopher’s unique experience of the world. This well-written, well-acted piece offers opportunity for laughter, consideration, and empathy on the part of the audience — not just for Christopher, but for the people in his life who are struggling to teach, raise, and care for this young man as he searches for a path through adolescence into an adulthood of self-sufficiency.