On Stage

San Diego Premiere of Curious Incident Lands in Escondido 

By Berto Fernández

In 2003, Mark Haddon published The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a Mystery novel, narrated in first person, about a 15-year-old boy and his quest to solve the mystery of the killing of his neighbor’s poodle dog. Christopher Boone, who is described in the book as having ‘behavioral difficulties’, is a math genius and lives with his father Ed. Through his Sherlock Holmes’ style investigation, he discovers some family secrets that challenge his relationship with them and the World. The novel was very well received, earning multiple literary awards, was translated to 36 languages, and sparked the interest of playwright Simon Stephens, who in 2015 turned the piece into a Tony winning play.

Escondido based company CCAE Theatricals is producing the San Diego Premiere of this powerful show directed by J. Scott Lapp and choreographed by Natalie Iscovich. The cast is led by Daniel Patrick Russell, Australian actor whose recent credits include Broadway’s The Music Man, the latest West Side Story film, and the title role in the Australian and US Tours of Billy Elliot

As most of The Word readers know, in addition to being one of the Theatre and Entertainment collaborators for the publication, I am a professional Theatre actor in town. Being part of the Curious Incident ensemble cast, gives me firsthand insight on the creative process of this complex piece. 

Storytelling is undoubtedly at the forefront of Theatre, but this show does it in a very peculiar way, as it invites the audience into Christopher’s mind. His connection to other players in the story is enhanced by a small ensemble of actors, who portray 5-6 characters each…sometimes, we embody objects in the scene, like furniture, electronics, and/or decorative elements of a home. This will surely keep audiences engaged as the action occurs. Emotional story driven choreography by Natalie Iscovich assigns purpose and real-world movement to every part of Christopher’s journey. 

Directing a show of this magnitude is no easy task, and J. Scott Lapp dives into the book to ensure that every bit of text, every silence, and staging has an organic and accurate representation for the audience to follow along.

Another element that makes our production so unique is the set, meticulously designed by Matthew Herman. As the rendering of the design reveals, we are using the entire space as a soundstage complete with moving LED screens, an array of lights, and scenic elements to help us tell the story in a minimalistic but precise way. The set gives a perfect canvas for projection designer Blake McCarty to add another layer of magic to our story.

One of the key parts of making this show have a powerful impact on audiences is the sound. Maxwell Transue has composed original music to illustrate the heartbeat of the piece with a House/Ambient vibe that really threads all the pieces in place.

San Diego audiences have never experienced a production quite like this, and it will surely resonate with a lot of people for years to come. I’m not just saying this because I’m part of the cast. This group of artists are pouring their hearts into accurately presenting this compelling story of family, self-discovery, and perseverance. This multi-sensory and immersive type of production is exactly where Theatre is headed, and it’s incredibly exciting for it to be happening in our town. So, make it a point to go see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, it will grab you right to the core, and pull at your heartstrings in a way not many shows can. Oh! And make sure you stay in the theater past the end of play and bows. Christopher has a special treat for the audience, and you do not want to miss it.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is presented by CCAE Theatricals with performances February 16 through March 3rd at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. Tickets and info: https://www.theatricals.org/curious-incident