Review: St. John’s Theatre goes experimental for fall production

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ran from Dec. 5-7.

St. John’s Theatre performed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time last weekend, Dec. 5-7. The play had three showings on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, as well as a St. John’s staff preview on Wednesday. This was new director Mr. Luc Hotaling’s first production at SJC.

The play is based on a book with the same title written by Mark Haddon. I remember reading the book as a freshman in Honors English 9. It focuses on a teenage boy with autism who lives in a London suburb. He finds a dog belonging to his neighbor, Mrs. Shears, dead and searches for the killer. After discovering that his mom, who his father told him died, is indeed alive and in London, Christopher goes to find her. By going on an adventure in which he needs to use critical thinking skills, Christopher learns to be independent and more confident.

On Nov. 4, the cast met with Emily Kranking ’12 and Heidi Wangelin of RespectAbility to discuss portraying autism in a respectful and positive light. This showed in the performance Blaise Ryan ’21 gave as lead character Christopher Boone. Ryan’s portrayal of Christopher was complex and sympathetic. The character was not overly dramatized and appeared genuine.

Hotaling decided to go a very experimental route with the direction of the play. The set was very simplistic, with three grey walls and projections used to show the setting. The cast thought of very clever ways to show scenes that could have been very difficult to stage. In a scene where Christopher goes searching through his house for something he thinks his father has hidden from him, a whiteboard with magnetic pictures of furniture were used to show the blueprint of the house. To illustrate searching through the house, Blaise picked up the pictures and turned them over individually. This combination of micro and macro imagery is very modern for theatre and refreshing to see in a school production. 

I liked how Mr. Hotaling decided to have characters as well as their “voice,” or inner monologue, as two separate people, creating opportunities for more cast members. Teresa Knestout ’20 and Elena Lohsen ’21 did an excellent job as the physical representation and voice of Christopher’s mother, respectively. The play had a significantly larger cast than past years, and every cast member had important roles in different scenes.

Mr. Hotaling allowed the student actors to, in many ways, “direct themselves,” or make their own stylistic choices. I think that this allowed their self-expression to shine through in their acting choices and is a great way to teach high school students about theater. Allie Rappel ’21 designed the costumes for the show, which were well done and helped establish character.

Over all, St. John’s Theatre is growing a lot under a new director and is branching out from traditional acting choices. I look forward to seeing the spring musical!

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