This story captivates.
It catches you by surprise and just pulls you further in.
The storyteller -- 15-year-old Christopher Boone -- is a math savant with autistic symptoms.
And through his story -- “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” -- you see into the very unusual and fascinating way he thinks and sees the world and also solves a mystery.
The Tony Award-winning play, based on the best-selling book by Mark Haddon and adaptation by Simon Stephens, makes its Montana debut in a joint Helena Theatre Company-Carroll College production 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 9, at Carroll's Flex Theatre in the Carroll Campus Center. It runs for nine shows through March 24.
HTC has been trying to secure rights to produce the play for several years said co-director Ed Noonan, so when these were recently released, HTC was at the top of the list.
The play “is a mystery,” said co-director Kevin Casey, “At the center is a 15-year-old detective whose trying to find out who murdered his neighbor’s dog. In the course of solving the case, he finds out a lot more about the history of his family ... and about his own experience with the world.
Although Christopher is exceptional at math, he’s “ill-equipped to interpret everyday life.”
He can’t stand to be touched, doesn’t venture from his immediate street alone, doesn’t understand metaphors and common figures of speech and distrusts strangers.
It’s 7 minutes past midnight, when Christopher stands beside his neighbor’s dead dog, Wellington, who has been speared with a garden fork.
Within minutes Christopher is falsely accused of killing him and soon sets out to solve the crime.
His teacher Siobhan (Ilgaz Ulusoy) “encourages him to write about the experience of solving the mystery,” and the re-enactment of his journal makes it feel like a play within a play, said Casey.
The performance by actor Austyn Brown, a 16-year-old Capital High School sophomore, “drives the whole play,” said Casey. “We have been really lucky. His enthusiasm is really inspirational.”
Brown, who recently played Buddy in Grandstreet Theatre’s production of “Elf JR.” said he’s stuck to comedy roles in his 11 years with Grandstreet.
But he was fascinated with this dramatic role of Christopher partially because it’s personal: “My brother has Aspergers,” he explained.
Brown describes his character Christopher as obsessed with math, outer space and his family.
“It’s very challenging,” he said of his role. “You have to understand how they think.”
He prepared for it by watching lots of videos of people with autism describing their experiences.
Brown’s favorite part of the play is a train scene. “Christopher goes to this train station and he’s surrounded by all these people and noises and he pushes through. I found it so empowering that he finds his way … through all these challenges that earlier in the play he probably couldn’t have handled.”
“The storyline is gorgeous,” he said of why people will want to see the production.
HTC veteran actor Randy Fuhrmann plays Christopher’s dad, Ed. “He’s just a regular working class guy, but he’s very determined to be a good dad. And Christopher is kind of a challenging kid,” he said.
Theatrically, HTC “shows what it’s like for Christopher to experience the outside world and process information” through multiple images projected on screens, lights and other kinds of media that show the sensory overload,” said Fuhrmann.
All of these were created by media designer/technical director Stephen Alan Seder, who is credited with building “a universe of video and sound.”
“It’s not a straightforward story that plays out in realistic scenes,” said Fuhrmann. “It jumps around in time.”
“It’s a play very dependent on the ensemble working together,” he added. Five of the actors play multiple roles.
“It’s going to be a really good night of theater,” he said. “Austyn is doing a fantastic job. It’s going to be really fun for the audience to see.”
Both the actors and the directors love the script.
Noonan said that he tells the cast, “This play is better than us. We have to keep stepping up to it. That’s the power of great plays -- they just pull you forward. It has an energy to it.”
The play is the 2015 Tony winner for Best Play, garnering numerous other awards as well including a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Play.
HTC actors and directors are also loving the new Carroll theater space.
“It’s a really great space to see it in,” said Fuhrmann, adding The FLEX Theatre “is the best theater space Carroll College has had.
“We’re really lucky to work in this Flex Theatre,” agreed Casey, praising “the excellent equipment” and flexible and intimate space.
Carroll students are involved in all aspects of the play, with several of them in the cast, plus making up the entire crew, working on the design team and staffing the house and box office.
The co-production runs 7:30 pm. March 9-10, 15-18 and 22-24.
Tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for students and are available at the door.
Carroll Night Sunday, March 18, offers special discount prices for Carroll faculty, staff and students, with ticket prices of $3 and $3 discounts on group tickets of eight or more.