Tricia Stiller/review | Illinois Theatre's 'Night-Time' is a play within a play

Tricia Stiller/review | Illinois Theatre's 'Night-Time' is a play within a play

In "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," 15-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone is on a mission. Following the murder of his neighbor's dog, Wellington, the brilliant but unique boy with a fondness for Sherlock Holmes, is determined to investigate and solve the crime.

Christopher sees everything. He describes himself as "a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties," but others might suspect that he lives somewhere on the autism spectrum.

He does not like to be touched, has an aversion to people, comforts himself by reciting prime numbers and is someone whose only friend is his pet rat.

But Christopher is brave. He has to be. The sights and sounds of the world around him are frequently overwhelming, causing him to shut down temporarily.

With the help of his teacher Siobahn, he has developed strategies that help him to function. He is especially gifted in math and is determined to sit for his A-Level exam, though those are not usually available for non-traditional students.

As Christopher investigates the mysterious death of Wellington, he keeps a detailed journal that he shares with Siobhan. Through his detective work, he uncovers painful truths that his father had kept hidden, causing his carefully structured world to become a terrifying place, as he independently learns to manage crowds and the vast London public transport system.

This innovative adaptation of Mark Haddon's award-winning novel of the same name goes above and beyond, through its clever, multi-media staging, to gain our empathy by allowing us into Christopher's world.

Under the direction of Latrelle Bright, we are thrust into a world of ever-changing stimuli and the internal struggle to hold on to the safety of what we know, while slowly finding the courage to face what we do not.

The adaptation, crafted by Simon Stephens, is presented as a play within a play, using Christopher's own journal writings as the script, narrated by his mentor and confidante, Siobhan.

As Christoper, Leojaye Payton-Steward gives an outstanding, authentic performance, brilliantly navigating the many fascinating components of his character.

He is supported by Katelynn Shennett as Siobhan, Nathan Ramsey as his father Ed and Charence Higgins as his mother Judy.

An expertly choreographed ensemble provides additional on-stage support in a variety of ways, as voices, vehicles and passengers on the Tube.

This production employs rear-screen projections, bright lights and animation, along very simple stage blocks, to create a number of seamless scenarios.

In keeping with its season of inclusiveness, a sensory sensitive performance will be offered for those who may find the full version too stimulating. That special performance will be given at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Due to some adult language, this production is recommended for ages 14 and up and may not be suitable for younger or more sensitive patrons.

Tricia Stiller is the downtown division manager for Bloomington Community Development and is the artistic director for Bloomington's Summer Theatre Program.

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