Horizon Theatre: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I had a rather curious experience when I went to see Horizon Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time that lead to me leaving during intermission. I was very much enjoying both the story and the performance – Brandon Michael Mayes is pretty amazing as protagonist Christopher – but there were a handful of audience members whom I just couldn’t tune out. It wasn’t anything explicit, but a snicker here and a whispered comment there made me uncomfortable with how they were viewing the show. It made everything feel so voyeuristic and exploitative, as though the protagonist’s disabilities were purely a novelty paraded out for us to enjoy like a classic circus freak show.

I have run through everything up through intermission over and over between the time of my leaving and sitting down to write this and I really don’t think that the play is exploitative in and of itself. And, aside from the fact that I think Horizon Theatre would do well to stay away from using foreign accents unnecessarily in its productions, I thought that the production was really quite wonderful. I think that it was pretty obvious that Mayes and co-directors Lisa Adler and Justin Anderson really did their homework putting together the character of Christopher. Adler even discussed how they were having people from the Marcus Autism Center come out to talk about autism with audiences after the matinées. I really can’t blame the theater, the playwright, nor the author of the original novel for the way I felt. My sense of unease at the play came purely through the audience.

This is the second time that this has happened to me. The first was watching a staging of The Merchant of Venice. Of course Shakespeare did intend the bigotry in his play, but what drove me from the audience then were the two or three families that brought kids there who were laughing at nearly every joke about how Shylock is evil because he’s a Jew. I mean, I more or less knew that what would be on stage would bug me when I bought the ticket but it was seeing how it was affecting these kids that made me have to walk out. My conclusion that time was that the play should be permanently retired from the stage. This time, however, I think that everyone should go see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time either now at Horizon or later when it’s at Aurora, which is sharing the production with Horizon. Really, I’d probably have been able to put up with the feeling of discomfort if it weren’t for the fact that the production was good enough to really reach me on an emotional level. I’m going to have to pick up the book and get the rest of the story sometime soon.

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