“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” Fall Play Review



Dima Aboukasm, Social Media Editor

With a murder, a mathematical mind, and the mysterious disappearance of a mother, MacDuffie’s Fall Play captivated its audience. On Nov. 16, 17, and 18, the MacDuffie Theater put on a wonderful production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. The play was written by Simon Stephens and is based off of the award-winning novel by Mark Haddon. The story follows 15 year old Christopher Boone who is trying to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbor’s dog, Wellington.  

The main character, Christopher, was played by 8th grader Gabe Shumway, who was able to successfully portray the unique characteristic traits, thoughts, and actions of his role; in the play, Christopher has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is considered to be a high-functioning form of autism. One can imagine that performing this kind of character definitely presents its own challenges. Despite this, Shumway was able to play the role quite beautifully and presented Christopher in a way that opened up the audience’s heart to him.

“The part involves a lot of physicalities and gestures in order to play the part correctly,” Shumway said.

Shumway had to put himself in the character’s shoes and had to “feel what Christopher felt” in order to accurately present the role to the audience.

“This includes how Christopher reacts to others, and how he copes with certain information,” Shumway said.

Christopher is highly intelligent, so following the narrative of him trying to solve a murder was fascinating. The play was written in a way that much of it was Christopher’s diary being read aloud as narration to the acting. This gave the play an interesting touch, as audience members could get to know more about the complex inner-thought process of Christopher and better understand the way Christopher perceives the world around him.

Christopher, played by 8th grader Gabe Shumway, and Mrs. Shears, played by junior Martina Lopez, mourn the death of Wellington, the dog. Photo provided by Peter Pham.

The most important aspect of the play, however, was the role of family. Christopher has quite the messy family; his mother had an affair and moved away with the neighbor’s husband. On top of this, Christopher’s father lied to Christopher about the situation, telling him that his mother had died from a heart attack instead. Christopher’s mother constantly tried to contact Christopher through letters, however, his father kept them hidden from him. Along with the deception, Christopher’s father struggles to keep his temper, often times yelling at Christopher and even hitting him. This complicated family dynamic and story was what truly fueled the play’s plot, adding numerous moments of tense, anticipating silence from the audience, eager to see what would unravel next.

With Christopher’s complex family and background, he became more relatable to the audience who were able to sympathize with his struggles along the way. The actors had a difficult task in presenting the sensitive, more mature, and sometimes very intense content of the play, but they handled it well. Christopher’s mother was played by freshman Sophie Stetson and Christopher’s father was played by junior John Parrish.

There was one particularly intense scene where Christopher’s father slaps him.

“It was most certainly a difficult scene. Every time after that scene I’d just be pacing back and forth backstage because you still have so much rage left from it. Acting may be mimicking the emotions, but you are also creating them within you, and so after a scene like that, I still had a lot of pent up anger,” Parrish said.

Through Christopher’s sleuthing and detective work, his complicated family life begins to unfold and family secrets are uncovered. This leads to Christopher discovering the truth behind his mothers so-called “death,” solving the murder of Wellington,  and ultimately, re-knitting lost familial ties of the past.

All of this was topped off with the fact that there was a real, live dog in the play! At the end, Christopher’s father gifts him with a pet dog who was played by Shumway’s actual dog, Pica. This scene clearly captured the audience’s hearts, as a collective sigh of “aww” could be heard when Pica, named Sandy in the play, was brought out.

All in all, the MacDuffie Theater did a marvelous job in putting on another successful production. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime not only gave audience members a chance to better understand the mind of those with autism, but it also followed an interesting murder mystery plot and an intricate family story, culminating to present a witty, inspiring, and captivating tale.