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THEATER REVIEW

Theater review: Showtimers cast brings life to 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time'

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Connor Wheeler (left) and Kelly Anglim in a scene from Showtimers’ “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.”

Cast and crew were in top form for Wednesday’s dress rehearsal, as Showtimers prepared to open its only weekend of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.”

After canceling the original opening because of COVID, Showtimers will wrap up its performances Saturday and Sunday, with an extra performance added on Sunday night.

Based on a 2003 novel by British writer Mark Haddon, the play tells the story of a brilliant but awkward teenager who discovers that his neighbor’s dog has been killed. Realizing he is a suspect, he sets out to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington, but his efforts threaten to turn his world upside down.

Showtimers is once again pushing boundaries (in a good way) with this production.

A stark, wide-open set contains little more than some black wooden cubes, which get moved about as needed to represent different objects. The walls resemble a computer motherboard, which the audience will soon understand is totally appropriate for a story about a boy whose beautiful mind has its own way of processing the world around him. And kudos to the multimedia team for the images on the projection screen at the back of the stage, which provide a video version of a painted backdrop, sometimes still, sometimes moving, that helps establish each scene where the action is taking place.

Then there is the subject matter, which is strictly for mature audiences. Even apart from the occasional salty language, themes of betrayal, abandonment, grief and more make for an intense emotional ride.

Connor Wheeler has a monumental task in portraying 15-year-old Christopher, not only appearing in almost every moment of the show but also having to portray a youth who is (for lack of a better phrase) on the spectrum — and he does a fantastic job.

Joel Gruver is powerful as Christopher’s world-weary father, doing his best to be a solo parent to a challenging child. Jamie Stewart is surprisingly sympathetic as Christopher’s mum, with a heart-wrenching soliloquy that helps the audience and Christopher understand what transpired in the family. As Christopher’s teacher, Siobhan, Kelly Anglim brings a welcome even keel to an otherwise explosive storyline. Her role includes long passages of narration which help to put all the pieces together.

The balance of this terrific cast weave in and out of the action both as significant figures and as faces in the crowd. Julie Wheeler (Connor’s real-life mother) exudes bitterness as the neighbor whose dog was killed. Susan Singleton, as Mrs. Alexander, is exactly the sort of kindly neighbor you would choose if there’s a startling secret that needs revealing. Halea Fowler, Gene Marrano, Jeremy Ratliff and Deena Sasser all provide supporting roles in which they create great characterizations even in short moments on the stage. And everyone in the cast uses British accents to good effect.

Although the mystery of Wellington’s death is solved before the end of the show, there are other loose ends to tie up, and this otherwise heavy drama manages to arrive at a fairly hopeful place.

Also, be sure to read director Corey Stewart’s notes in the program about the very personal journey that has resulted in this fine production.

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