Courtesy of Brad Martin

'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' hopes to encourage difference, offer uplifting message

With the holidays wrapped up and a new semester dawning, Carolinians may be in need of a pick-me-up. Fortunately, Trustus Theatre will be offering what director Chad Henderson promises to be an “uplifting and empowering” story in the form of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

Based on Mark Haddon’s novel of the same name, Simon Stephens’ stage adaptation has been met with critical acclaim and a number of awards, including a Tony Award. The story follows a young man named Christopher, who, facing blame for the murder of his neighbor’s dog, resolves to unravel the mystery himself. In the process of doing so, Christopher overcomes a number of obstacles and even discovers new mysteries surrounding his family, his neighbors and himself.

Upon seeing the play on Broadway in 2015, Henderson knew it was only a matter of time before he brought it to life with Trustus. It's an "amazing adventure" on stage, he said.

“It’s actually one of my favorite plays that I’ve seen in the past 10 years,” Henderson said in an email. "This show has so much heart ... It reminds us that the things that may make us feel “different” are actually our strengths. Our perspectives are unique and valuable."

Indeed, Christopher's perspective, while never outright stated in either the novel or the play, is often assumed to be that of a rarely represented protagonist: an autistic individual. 

"As an actor with autism, I had always wanted to tackle this role," said first-year music student Beck Chandler, who stars as Christopher, in an email. "It is not common for an autistic character to be the focus of a play, so as soon as I saw auditions, I knew I had really wanted to get the part."

Henderson credits Chandler with "bringing truth to the role" and "using his own experiences to bring Chris to life in an authentic way," but notes that there are a number of other stars amidst the cast and crew as well.

New York City designer and USC graduate Baxter Engle assists with scenic and media designs, which play a key role in depicting Christopher's mind throughout the show.

In addition, Christopher's father, Ed, is portrayed by guest artist Scott Pattison. Originally from Coventry, England, Pattison is a member of Charleston's PURE Theatre and of Actors Equity Association.

Together, this cast and crew create a show that Chandler said is unlike any other, but amidst the ensemble of sound, projections, and characters, Chandler hopes the audience's key takeaway will be one of strength in individuality.

"Christopher is able to accomplish such great things not in spite of his autism, but because of it," said Chandler. "He shows that a little bit of difference can go a long way."

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” runs from Jan. 18 until Feb. 9 at Trustus Theatre, and tickets are available both online and at the box office. Half-price Student Rush tickets are also available at the door 15 minutes prior to curtain, space permitting.

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