SUBSCRIBE

STAGES

A mind meld with his ‘Curious’ character

Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Eliott Purcell

By Terry Byrne Globe Correspondent 

Within the confines of a rectangular rehearsal area, Eliott Purcell and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ensemble navigate a crowded train station outside London. Under the watchful eye of director Paul Daigneault and with the encouragement of choreographer Yo-El Cassell, the crowd expands and contracts to challenge Purcell’s progress, as he bobs, weaves, and struggles to get past them, usually without touching anyone.

The scene illustrates the challenge of Simon Stephens’s stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel, which SpeakEasy Stage Company is presenting in the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion through Nov. 25.

Advertisement

“This story unfolds in an unusual way,” says Purcell. “Each of the characters is contributing to creating the picture of how Christopher sees the world. I’m not the only mind at work.”

Christopher Boone is the teenager at the heart of this coming-of-age story, whose struggle to understand his place in the world is complicated by his hatred of being touched, his inability to understand small talk, and his intense focus on specific objects, words, and movements. When he discovers his neighbor’s dog in the yard stabbed with a gardening fork, he is determined to solve the mystery of the murder, and in doing so overturns the world he knew.

“I love him more than any other character I’ve played,” says Purcell, who, at age 25 has already played a crazed puppeteer in “Hand to God” (for which he received an Elliot Norton Award nomination), a crazed Cotton Mather in “The Weird,” a rebellious teen in “appropriate,” and oh yes, a dreamy Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet.”

“Christopher demands an incredible energy and vulnerability,” says Purcell, a 2014 Boston College theater arts graduate. “He’s asking us to open ourselves to the mess of human life.”

Purcell says he has had the opportunity to talk to individuals with Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum characterized by difficulty with social interactions and repetitive behavior. (Christopher’s condition is not specified in the script.)

Advertisement

“One of the traps is trying to do an impression, or impersonation,” says Purcell. “No one is the same. That’s why it’s a spectrum. What makes Christopher so compelling is that he thinks so quickly, and his mind takes so many unexpected turns, all in the name of coping.”

Daigneault says he was eager to direct “Curious Incident” because he felt the intimacy of the Roberts theater could help make the connections between Christopher others more real.

“His parents are trying so hard to connect with him,” says Daigneault. “I want to make sure the audience can see that as well as the view of the world from Christopher’s perspective.”

A revolutionary comedy

At one point during “The Revolutionists,” Marie Antoinette suggests the French Revolution could use “a woman’s touch.” The comment is facetious, but Courtney O’Connor, who is directing a Nora Theatre Company production of the comedy at Central Square Theater through Nov. 12, says the former queen of France is simply highlighting the need for a woman’s perspective on history.

In addition to Marie Antoinette, the quartet of “Revolutionists” includes Charlotte Corday, who assassinated Jean-Paul Marat, a radical leader and journalist; playwright, abolitionist, and feminist Olympe de Gouges; and Marianne Angelle, a Haitian activist living in Paris. The first three women are historically accurate — all were all beheaded during the Reign of Terror — while Marianne is a composite of several women whose stories were not documented.

“These women were all determined to have their voices heard, at a time when women were ridiculed and silenced,” O’Connor says. “This imagined meeting is an opportunity for them to share their experiences and know they weren’t alone.”

Lauren Gunderson, who is the most widely produced playwright in the country at the moment (Merrimack Rep is staging her “Silent Sky” through Nov. 12), wrote “The Revolutionaries” in 2016, but O’Connor says the issues it raises are shockingly current, citing the silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren by her male colleagues just months ago.

“The fun of Lauren’s script is that the dialogue is very contemporary. Blending the historic with the contemporary language allows the actresses to play these women as people, rather than icons,” O’Connor says. “In the midst of some hilariously funny comments, more truth is revealed about these women than what history has handed us. They all believe they are on the precipice of a new revolution, and what a difference women’s voices can make.”

For tickets, call 617-576-9278 or go to www.centralsquaretheater.org.

‘Black Odyssey’ from Front Porch

The Front Porch Arts Collective continues its series of staged readings Oct. 30 with “Black Odyssey,” by Marcus Gardley, at Central Square Theater. The play follows Ulysses Lincoln, a Gulf War veteran, who struggles to find his way home to his wife and son. The reading, which is free, will be directed by Benny Sato Ambush and feature award-winning actors Maurice Emmanuel Parent and Johnny Lee Davenport, as well as Cliff Odle, whose play “Lost Tempo” is currently running at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. RSVP at www.centralsquaretheater.org.

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company. At Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, Oct. 20-Nov. 25. Tickets $25-$67, 617-933-8600, www.bostontheatrescene.com


Terry Byrne can be reached at trbyrne@aol.com.