Thursday, June 21, 2018
Stage

Review: 'Curious Incident' delivers unusual theater in several dimensions

TAMPA — Watching The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is like going for a run when you're out of shape. Muscles of imagination grumble at being reawakened before they feel refreshed.

The hit play, now at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, is easy to enjoy but not to explain. Its staging combines bare-set minimalism with sophisticated visual design. The dialogue of its central character, the brilliant but troubled Christopher Boone, jumps from the tiniest observations of the physical world to the mathematical formulas that hold it together.

The show proves that theater can serve as a magnifying glass or a telescope or both. That reason alone justifies making the trip to catch this diligently executed production.

Like the best-selling Mark Haddon novel on which it is based, the stage adaptation of Curious Incident by Simon Stephens tries to get inside the mind of a 15-year-old boy, to experience his joys and obsessions. Controversy has erupted over just how to describe his cluster of odd behaviors, which include an avoidance of eye contact and fear of being touched. The book wisely avoids a diagnosis, but that hasn't stopped emphatic reactions from some quarters that it mischaracterizes people with autism or Asperger's syndrome.

The play responds to that challenge with three-dimensional lighting, with walls doubling as chalk boards for his diagrams, but also with movement and pantomime. Dancers sit quietly in half-light until called upon to act out some of the emotions Christopher can't express verbally. I enjoyed their graceful simplicity as much as the stream of projected images throughout, which included the random numbers and distant galaxies of his thoughts, though both are impressive.

The title might give the impression that the show is about solving a mystery, a boy's detective work following the murder of the neighbor's dog. That riddle is just an appetizer.

This is really about a much larger search, a coming-of-age journey with an unlikely hero. Christopher, played with an exuberant exactitude by Adam Langdon, might be paralyzed by other people's common speech, but only because he thinks through every word. "For example," he says, "people often say 'Be quiet,' but they don't tell you how long to be quiet for."

As Christopher's father, Gene Gillette looms and whispers and cajoles to Shakespearean effect; and Felicity Jones Latta also shines as the mother he remembers. Maria Elena Ramirez also turns in a memorable performance as Siobhan, the teacher who connects with him.

About the play's overall paradox, the dance elements flow so naturally it's almost a shame we need the special effects in sound and lighting. It would also be disingenuous to pretend that those effects don't help.

One of the strongest elements of the play is its refusal to end on a superficially uplifting note. Heroism has been achieved, a plausible future laid out. But no one is minimizing the challenges that lie ahead for this soul, as he navigates a world known only to himself.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

SENDUP: MUSICAL OF MUSICALSFive composers, a talented cast, choreography by Cheryl Lee and music directed by Michael Raabe — that’s Freefall Theatre’s recipe for a laugh-filled, season-ending summer musical, appropriately titled The Musical of Musica...
Published: 06/20/18
Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

TAMPA — The virtues of Dancing at Lughnasa, with which Jobsite Theater closes its season, are many. This drama by the celebrated Brian Friel opened in 1990 to much acclaim. It captures a family’s joys and sadnesses, and the quickness with which one s...
Published: 06/19/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

OPENING: DANCING AT LUGHNASAIrish playwright Brian Friel, who died in 2015 at 86, won’t be traveling anymore. But I’ll bet he packed a tidy suitcase. Dancing at Lughnasa, Jobsite Theater’s season closer, manages to address a lot of issues: race, reli...
Published: 06/13/18
Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall rolls out a new lineup of musicals for its 2018-19 season, a mix of comedy, favorite musicals and romance."For the last 35 years, Broadway has always been a staple at Ruth Eckerd Hall," chief executive officer Zev Buffman said in a p...
Published: 06/12/18
A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

Dr. Jeffrey Grove sat three-quarters of the way back from the stage at Radio City Music Hall, waiting for his moment. The Largo physician made the trip with family to New York for Sunday’s Tony Awards, where he hoped to see his investment in O...
Published: 06/11/18
Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

SIKESTON, Mo. — Neal Boyd, an opera singer who won America’s Got Talent and dabbled in Missouri politics, has died. Scott County Coroner Scott Amick says Boyd died around 6 p.m. Sunday at his mother’s house in Sikeston. He was 42. Amick says Boyd had...
Published: 06/11/18
Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s drama team stole the show at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards Sunday night.The performance brought the crowd— many of whom were wiping tears from their eyes— to its collective feet at the Radio City Music ...
Published: 06/11/18