Highly recommended for an evening of fine but challenging drama

Photo by Chris Foster

By Camille Bounds

Camille Bounds

A brilliant but troubled boy takes center stage in South Valley Community Theatre’s gripping and thoughtful production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

I was stunned by the depth of this excellent production. It deals compassionately with the complex relationships in a family dealing with a psychological condition many mothers and fathers in the South Valley must also face with their own children. This is one production the audience must pay close attention to for its deep theatrical energy and humane meaning.

Simon Stephens’ Tony Award-winning adaptation of Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel opened Nov. 17 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse and runs until Dec. 9.

Kyle Strenfel gives a stunning and committed performance as “Christopher Boone,” an autistic teenager who embarks on a quest to solve the mysterious killing of his neighbor’s dog. With keen attention to detail, he movingly conveys the 15-year-old’s unique sensory processing and intense focus from being on the autism spectrum. This especially hits the audience in moments of overstimulation, when flashing lights, sound effects, and video projections designed by Peter Mandel ingeniously place us inside Christopher’s overwhelmed mind.

Anchoring the show is Maddy Khachadoorian as Christopher’s teacher and mentor “Siobhan,” a guiding light who provides him with warmth and encouragement. Christopher’s parents “Judy” and “Ed” (Sindu Singh and David Scott) deliver nuanced performances, depicting the complexities of caring for a neurodiverse child with empathy and humanity.

2023_curious_logoAs additional characters in the show, Jenny Arbizu, Jonathan Bass, Michael Grimm, Carol Harris, Marilyn Pifer and Jeff Swan bring believability and add important information to the complicated plot.

First time director Scott Lynch adeptly leads the talented ensemble, crafting Christopher’s journey as one that both educates and inspires. Producer Elizabeth Mandel has brought together a fine group of SVCT artists and volunteers to make a strong production. Christine Carrillo does a magnificent job in choreographing scenes where actors must move in strict precision, such as at a London Underground station. Backstage, Oliver Oliphant, Mackenzie Brown and Clara Shem-Tov handle the smooth running of the show throughout the production.

Due to strong language, parental guidance is recommended.

Transporting audiences into the perspective of an autistic teenager is no easy feat, but the performers rise to the challenge with nuance and care in their poignant production of a young man who investigates the mysterious killing of his neighbor’s dog, only to uncover shocking truths about his family in the process.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time” is highly recommended for an evening of fine but challenging drama. By the uplifting conclusion, audiences have an insightful window into autism along with a celebration of Christopher’s hard-won accomplishments. Proving theatrical storytelling can illuminate diverse perspectives with compassion, SVCT’s thoughtful production of “The Curious Incident” is a triumphant must-see.

Camille Bounds is the theater review columnist for Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life.