Christopher John Francis Boone doesn’t know it yet, but he is about to have a life-changing adventure. The 15-year-old is sure of only one thing as “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” opens at Hauck Auditorium at the University of Maine: He did not kill his neighbor’s dog.
It is the discovery of Wellington’s dead body, a small pitchfork thrust in the dog’s side, that sets the story in motion. Christopher’s determination to solve the mystery will change his life forever, along with the way he and others perceive him and how his perceptions are impacted by autism. It takes place in Swindon and London, England.
The play, based on Mark Haddon’s best-selling 2003 novel, was written by Simon Stephens. It premiered in London nine years later and moved to Broadway in 2014. Over the past 18 months or so, it has been performed by different Maine theater companies in Winter Harbor, Portland, Belfast, Berwick and Orono.
The University of Maine’s School of Performing Arts, which runs through Sunday, Nov. 24, wraps “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” in some stunning technology that gives the production a cinematic feel. From the music and sound to the lighting and images projected on the set to the sparse props, the technical team lets the audience feel what Christopher does. His senses sometimes overload, and he collapses in a moaning heap, crying out for it all to stop.
As much as the performances, the technical work helps theatergoers stand in Christopher’s shoes and to feel what he feels. The work behind the scenes on this production is as fine as that of any professional company in the state.
Set designer Dan Bilodeau, lighting designer Christopher Annas-Lee and costume designer Michelle Handley beautifully execute director Cary Libkin’s vision for the play, but it is the music, sound and projections designed by Curtis Craig that give UMaine’s version of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” its heart. One of the most important things that Craig’s soundscape does is emphasize the silences in Christopher’s life, which is when important things seem to happen.