By Eva Trieger
SAN DIEGO – In anticipation of the next main production from San Diego Rep, Tthe curious incident of the dog during the night, I spoke by phone with the art director, Todd Salovey. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with him after the first reading as a company, and his ideas and observations formed the basis of our appeal.
Salovey told me that he had read the book “about six times” and felt that the character, ideas and inner dialogue of 15-year-old protagonist Christopher were successfully and brilliantly captured by the playwright, Simon Stephens. That’s key to understanding the story, which reveals that because of Christopher’s unique cognitive and neurological makeup, he isn’t your average 15-year-old. His impulse is to find the real killer of his neighbor’s dog, a crime of which he is suspected.
According to international bestselling novelist Mark Haddon, the terms “Asperger’s” and “autistic” are avoided and replaced with “a person with behavioral problems,” in Christopher’s words in the novel. This idea of labeling anyone demeans and minimizes the complexity and scope of that person. Salovey expressed much the same idea. I asked him if this piece had changed his outlook on neurodiversity. “This piece absolutely changed my perspective. I see, in Christophe, the extraordinary. The way he notices everything. Most people take a look… he sees everything. The representative’s artistic director also reported that this prompted him to re-evaluate how to make the theater, or your home, accessible to people with disabilities. This forever shattered the idea that “one size fits all”. This new understanding of wanting to make the representative of San Diego more inviting and welcoming ignited Salovey’s passion to make this theater an even greater icon and a pioneer for our theater community.
From the first reading, Salovey had the impression of seeing the play. With such an incredible cast, I can’t say I’m too surprised. Iain Kohn plays Christopher. The talented actor began reciting poetry at the age of fourteen, but honed his acting skills with the Greenway Court Theater in Los Angeles, where he played the role of Christopher. He identified with the character’s inclinations and was able to authentically share it with audiences. Iain described his own experience with Asperger’s syndrome and how it influenced his acting.
The entire stellar cast includes several of San Diego’s top actors. Christopher’s father, Ed, is played by Nicholas Mongiardo Cooper, who last appeared in the Rep in House of dreams. One of my favorite actors, Amanda Wallace, stars as Christopher’s mother, Judy. Christopher’s teacher Siobhan is played by Los Angelenos, Devereau Chumrau, who last appeared on SDRep in House of joy right before the pandemic shuts everything down. Additionally, talented actors include Anthony Adu, Grayson Heyl, Jada Owens, Vanessa Dinning, and Richard Jessie Johnson.
Salovey shared that due to Christopher’s naivety there were a lot of funny moments as well. In fact, the underlying message of this piece, and the theme SD Rep is hoping audiences will pick up on, is that we all saw limitations that we can overcome, just like Christopher does. He goes on a journey, faces challenges and overcomes them. It is something that each of us can relate to.
I would be remiss if I did not mention how the choreography in this piece allows the audience to get to know and understand Christopher better. Through Stephen Buescher’s imagination and innovative kinesiology, we can follow Christopher’s journey with him and experience his anxiety, observations and insight.
The curious incident of the dog during the night will be presented at the Lyceum Theater in San Diego Rep from January 6 to 30. Tickets can be purchased online via firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 619.544.1000.
Eva Trieger is a freelance writer specializing in arts coverage. She can be contacted via email@example.com