Main actor excels in Vortex ” Curious Incident ‘»Albuquerque Journal
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Last year the Fusion Theater produced an intellectually exciting production of Simon Stephens’ play “Heisenberg.”
This year the Vortex Theater takes on the challenge of an even more difficult Stephens play: “The Strange Incident of the Dog in the Night”. What makes this game more challenging isn’t the larger cast and multiple locations that need to be staged, but rather the acting skills required to convey the life of the central character, a 15-year-old boy with autism, a child prodigy Math also traverse hell to be the only child of two well-meaning but catastrophically dysfunctional parents.
The play begins with the violent death of a dog and Christopher’s search for the person who committed such a senseless and cruel murder. While initially limited to his manageable neighborhood, Christopher eventually tries to find his way to London, and the staging of this scene alone makes this Vortex production worth seeing. Poor Christopher has to cope with all the difficulties most of us have become accustomed to, barely realizing how unnatural and how mediated our tech-driven lives have become. I was reminded of my own 84 year old father who doesn’t use email or doesn’t have a cell phone and who must feel like he’s been transferred to another planet where everyone knows the language and has the skills except him to survive .
“The Strange Incident of the Dog at Night” was adapted from a novel by Mark Haddon and is presented as “Play-in-a-Play”. The piece is the dramatic creation of Christopher with the help of his teacher who narrates (beautifully played by Holly Deuel Gilster, who unfortunately tells in the dark). There is a kind of refrain that stays on stage, plays along if necessary, and even animates inanimate objects. When Christopher has to use an ATM for the first time, actor Laira Magnusson becomes a machine, speaks like a robot and literally spits out the (invisible) money.
The supporting cast is consistently excellent, with a particularly good performance by Bridget Dunne playing a decisive role.
But the show belongs to Thomas Yegerlehner, who takes on the role of Christopher with complete certainty and credibility; His body language, facial expressions, speech rhythms and emotional intensity convey a young man whose inner world is drastically different from the rest of us. For one thing, he is unable to tell a lie; On the other hand, he sees the innumerable wonders of nature in astonishing details. This makes him deeply vulnerable, but also acutely alive. He is an extraordinary young man, and Yegerlehner’s achievement is just as extraordinary.
The director Leslee Richards makes excellent use of her talented ensemble and, with the support of the movement director Judith Chazin-Bennahum, gets most of her effects from the actors themselves. Beautiful effects are also produced by the lighting designer Josh Bien; For example, in one scene he uses a filter to create tiny stars of light, and in another, he miraculously creates the illuminated outline of an escalator.
This is an incredibly exciting show in the theater (if a little too long), but more importantly, it testifies to the challenge and ultimate glory of an authentic human life in an often dehumanizing world.
“The Strange Incident of the Dog at Night” plays at the Vortex Theater, 2900 Carlisle NE, Albuquerque through October 14th. Visit vortexabq.org or call 247-8600 for reservations.