A mystery's afoot as live indoor performance returns to Addison
We begin with the elephant in the room: WaterTower Theatre has been embroiled in a heated discussion regarding its casting for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
The cast and artistic team are all white or white-passing, and there has been outrage from the Dallas-Fort Worth theater community that this does not accurately reflect "modern-day London," as the theater's description of the show claims.
But this review is not going to tackle that issue. Yes, it is important to note and I personally am uncomfortable with such a homogenous presentation. And it's an important conversation that is still developing (or trying to) between WaterTower's artistic staff and the DFW community, but it's one that's happening offstage.
Onstage, Mark Haddon's bestselling novel of the same name (which was turned into a play by Simon Stephens) begins with a mystery. Someone has killed his neighbor's dog, and 15-year-old Christopher Boone, a neurodiverse young man with very specific limits around his life, is determined to crack the case.
On a versatile set designed by Kennedy Styron that places the audience on either side of the action, we get a glimpse into both Christopher's world and his mind. He's cared for by his laborer father (a tough but vulnerable John-Michael Marrs) outside London, having been told only a handful of months ago that his mother suddenly died of a heart attack.
His teacher, Siobhan (Megan Haratine, with a lovely, lilting Irish accent), narrates Christopher's adventures from the notebook he's recorded them in for school. It is through her that we see what Christopher can be capable of, as the mystery grows and morphs to include new discoveries about his family.
As the autistic teen, Colin Hodgkin is a revelation. The Michigan native has played the role before, honing Christopher's highly specific physical tics and vocal patterns and now inviting the audience into his reality with a masterfully raw edge.
Shannon McGrann is also a stand-out, one of six actors who make up the hard-working ensemble. Through Emily Scott Banks' specific direction, McGrann and company embody everyone (and everything) from neighbors to household furniture to frazzled travelers.
Lighting and projections from Adam Chamberlin likewise take us everywhere from a busy London tube station to Christopher's bedroom to even space itself. David Lanza's evocative sound design solidifies the time-bending transitions.
Though the drama happening with WaterTower Theatre does warrant further discussion, for now its drama onstage also deserves a closer look.
WaterTower Theatre's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs through July 25 in Addison.