Christopher Boone’s murder-mystery investigation in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” unfolds as a fascinating view into a 15-year-old boy’s unique perspective on the world.
Simon Stephens’s stage adaptation of the Mark Haddon novel will be presented by Apollinaire Theatre Company in its annual free performances at PORT Park in Chelsea July 10-28. The story follows a series of jolting personal discoveries Christopher makes as he tries to get to the bottom of the murder of a neighbor’s dog. Told from Christopher’s point of view, the story is complicated by his discomfort with people and his difficulty to perceive or interpret other people’s emotions.
Although past Apollinaire in the Park productions have moved the audience around to different areas of the park — even the salt pile in the adjacent lot — for “Curious Incident” director Danielle Fauteux Jacques has decided to focus on one area. She is relying on Elliot Norton Award-winning sound designer and composer David Reiffel and lighting designer Christopher Bocchiaro to create an atmosphere that will anchor the audience in a specific place. And she’s depending on 15-year-old actor Seamus Doyle to take audiences inside Christopher’s world.
Reiffel says he’s creating a mix of naturalistic sounds that let us know when Christopher is on a London street, and expressionistic sounds that try to provide a window into what’s going on in his mind.
“There is pattern-based music underneath a lot of the expressionistic sections,” Reiffel says. “Because Christopher is a mathematician, I created an echo pattern based on prime numbers.”
Fauteux Jacques says that the play, a 2015 Tony Award winner, is often associated with high-tech production values, but Reiffel’s creative soundscape and the park setting offer a refreshing new approach.
“I think our outdoor setting provides a sense of the larger world and the contrast with Christopher’s challenges navigating it,” she says. “Christopher is always thinking about the universe, and there it is, in the stars above our playing space.”
Doyle, a Watertown High School junior, is remarkably comfortable in a rehearsal room full of adults, Fauteux Jacques says.
“We thought we might cast someone younger, but not necessarily a 15-year-old,” she says. “There was no question Seamus was the right choice.”
Although novelist Haddon never spells it out, Christopher is probably on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and Doyle says he was always mindful of steering close to the character and away from stereotypes.
“I think there is a lot of leeway in the script to develop mannerisms that feel right for Christopher and work for me,” he says.
The company worked with Elise Wulff, the program manager for child services at Aspire, a MassGeneral Hospital for Children program that offers support skills for individuals with high cognitive autism spectrum disorder.
“The way for me to avoid overacting,” says Doyle, “is to kind of map the moments in the play to the level of the stimulus. If this is a level 1 stimulus, Christopher reacts this way. If it’s a level 3, he reacts differently. Going through the script that way has given me a lot of confidence about making sure my responses feel true.”
Doyle says for him, performing is not so much about being onstage in front of people as it is about getting into the head of a character. “But I’m looking forward to performing outdoors,” he says. “It’s a completely different atmosphere.”
Last year Doyle performed on the Boston Common as Prince Edward in Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s production of “Richard III.” “Being out in the open air with the audience was amazing,” he says.
Taiwanese puppet troupe to perform
Brookline’s Puppet Showplace Theater reminds us once again that puppets are not just for kids with its Puppets at Night Series. On July 13 at 7 p.m., Taiwan’s I Wan Jan Puppet Troupe presents “A Chance Encounter,” the story of a midday stroll that turns into an adventure and includes puppets performing martial arts and pratfalls along with elegant steps.
The I Wan Jan Puppet Troupe uses the traditional Bu Dai Xi (“cloth bag theater”) to tell their story almost exclusively through movement and music. Developed in 17th century Taiwan, Bu Dai Xi puppets are made of simple materials but use intricate hand and finger movements to dramatize their story. Three master puppeteers manipulate the puppets, accompanied by five musicians who play drums, gongs, and stringed instruments. Tickets are $16 and can be purchased at www.puppetshowplace.org.
A free “Meet the Artist” event will be held July 11 at 6 p.m. and include conversation and demonstrations by I Wan Jan leader Li Yi Hsien, the other puppeteers, and musicians. The theater is located at 32 Station St., Brookline.
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME
Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Company. At PORT Park, 99 Marginal St., Chelsea, July 10-28. Free. www.apollinairetheatre.com
Terry Byrne can be reached at email@example.com.