The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a play based on the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon, is focused on perspective and the various ways the human mind is capable of seeing the world. Told entirely through the viewpoint of 15-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone — who, the audience comes to learn, is on the autism spectrum — Curious Incident invites audiences into the character’s unique world as he attempts to solve a neighborhood mystery.
One night, Christopher discovers the lifeless body of his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, and it’s clear his death was not an accident. Christopher is determined to find the culprit, and what begins as a classic whodunit turns into a personal, coming-of-age tale as family secrets unravel and Christopher learns more about himself in the face of adversity.
For Julian Wiles, who directs the upcoming production of Curious Incident at Charleston Stage, the play is not about Christopher’s implied condition but rather “how he perceives the world and sees it differently than we do and how much more detailed he sees [it].”
“Christopher is a very intelligent, highly imaginative young man,” says 16-year-old Jacob Feight, who plays the character. “He has a huge passion for the things he loves, and once he gets his mind set onto something, he is determined to get it.”
To prepare for the role, Feight turned to Haddon’s novel, which provided additional insight into the character’s distinct point of view.
“I wanted to find out more about Christopher. He is a very unique person and a brilliant one at that,” Feight says. “I got to see the beauty of his mind and how he sees so many things that we take for granted in a different way.”
Underneath the specific challenges and obstacles that Christopher faces, Curious Incident is a portrait of a teenager who’s just trying to navigate the complexities of his everyday world.
“I think everybody relates to being in awkward situations and not knowing how to deal with strangers and how to deal in situations we’ve never found ourselves in before,” Wiles says.
Although Christopher has an independent streak, Feight says that much of the character’s progression comes from his learning to trust and rely on other people.
“What I find so interesting about Christopher’s story is that he depends on a lot of the people around him during the show, which is difficult for him, since he has a hard time with people because he doesn’t understand them,” Feight says. “So wanting to break away from these people and be on his own is understandable. I think everyone has a little of that determination that Christopher has, wanting something so bad that you are willing to put yourself out of your own comfort zone and be brave.”
Because so much of Curious Incident concentrates on how Christopher processes and responds to the world around him, Wiles says he hopes the show sparks an appreciation for how the human mind functions.
“We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how amazing it is that we can see and discover things and do math and learn language and all these things that we do every day, but it’s pretty miraculous,” Wiles says. “And by seeing someone encountering that in a different kind of way, it makes you both marvel at Christopher’s mind but kind of at our own as well.”
Feight feels similarly.
“I hope audiences will walk away with a newfound respect for the world,” he says. “I hope they start noticing things about the world and how we interact that they might not have thought about before.”