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Hawaii premier of ‘Curious Incident’ Friday at ProArts

From the set, to special effects and through dialogue, audiences of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” will see the world through Christopher Boone’s mind. Christopher is played by Molly Oberg (above). PETER SWANZY photo

The stage play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a worldwide, artistic anomaly. It’s a non-musical, it’s very wordy, it explores neurological divergence, and it’s received multiple prodigious awards and critical accolades while remaining an international box office hit both popular with younger and older theater lovers. If you’ve never heard of it, the Hawaii premier of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” opens tomorrow night at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei.

The spellbinding 2003 modern mystery novel by British author Mark Haddon was an instant best-seller and went on to receive many literary prizes. Its title references an utterance by detective Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of Silver Blaze.” In the 1892 short story, a Scotland Yard detective asks Holmes, “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time,” says Holmes.

“The dog did nothing in the night-time,” states the detective. To which Holmes replies, “That was the curious incident.” When asked repeatedly if his book was about the mentally challenged, Haddon offered, “If anything, it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way.”

It is difficult to explain the surprising and uplifting plot, as too much information will assuredly spoil your theatrical experience. Presented in the novel from a first-person perspective, its stage adaptation by Simon Stephens aims to do the same. From the set, to special effects and through dialogue, audiences will see the world through Christopher Boone’s mind. As the tale begins, 15-year-old Christopher (Molly Oberg) of Swindon, Wiltshire in Southern England stands beside a neighbor’s dead dog just after midnight. It has been speared with a pitchfork and Christopher is the primary suspect. Exceptionally smart and determined to prove his innocence, detective work takes the extraordinary teen on an unexpected journey that challenges assumed truths and reveals life-changing secrets.

Jessica Dungans Barton is one of the choreographers participating in Onstage Dance Company’s 2nd annual Dance Revue at Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. JACK GRACE photo

I met with local director Mark Collmer and inquired what is it that makes this story so special and much-loved.

“When I first read the novel years ago, it was before I remember the term neurological divergence being in existence. It really opened my eyes to a world I knew nothing about, and I realized the viability of Chris’ way of thinking. I saw the cogency and commonalities between all people’s, including myself, through this enlightening and fascinating insight into a world of someone whose way of thinking isn’t quote, unquote normal. Whatever normal is,” he explained. “Molly (Oberg) walked into the auditions with an innate sense that was true to the spirit of Christopher. Chris craves a degree of regimentation in his life, we all do. It’s common to crave certainty. Imagine if someone rearranged the furniture in your room without you knowing it. You’d be a little freaked out.”

Asking if this was a difficult piece to present for the cast and himself, Collmer laughed. “Yes, very. We have 54 scene changes, and only 3 or 4 blackouts. One scene flows into the next. It’s all choreographed, and the ensemble rearranges stage cubes to create about two dozen locations.”

Collmer expounded on the busy task of the “Curious Incident” actor’s ensemble (Daniel Downs, Ed Fell, Jussara Oliveira, Sharyn Stone, Eric Strand and Shariana Visaya). I wanted to immerse the audience in Chris’ world. Chris cannot recognize facial expressions, like the meaning of a raised eyebrow. The ensemble plays multiple characters, but when they are the ensemble, they are much like a Greek chorus, and we’ve put them in masquerade masks, three-quarter masks so we can’t see their faces or expressions,” Collmer shared.

I asked Collmer why he thought “Curious Incident” was a must-see production. “Because it’s not like anything you’ve ever seen on Maui. What I want to communicate to the audience is the value of embracing diversity, now more than ever. I told the cast if we succeed in just one audience member either reaching up for help or reaching down to help in kindness, we’ve done our job. There are 6 million Christopher’s in the United States. They are unique people, beautiful people.”

The daring acrobats, jugglers, balance artists and contortionists of the “New Shanghai Circus” return for their annual engagement at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center Jan. 17-19. New Shanghai Circus photo

* ProArts presents the Hawaii premier of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” by Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon, directed by Mark Collmer. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, starting Friday, Jan. 10 through 26 at ProArts Playhouse. Tickets are $26. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” contains adult content, and may not appropriate for children.

ALSO THIS WEEK

OnStage Dance Company presents their 2nd annual Dance Revue. The original dance showcase, choreographed by Erin Kowalick, Dejah Padon, Jaidah Gertrude, Felicia Chernicki-Wulf, Erin McCargar, Rachel Lockhart and Jessica Dungans Barton, will showcase a variety of styles including tap, jazz, modern, ballet, musical theater, contemporary and lyrical. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10 through 12 at The Historic Iao Theater. Tickets range from $25 to $30. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at mauionstage.com.

UPCOMING

The daring acrobats, jugglers, balance artists, and contortionists of the “New Shanghai Circus” return for their annual engagement at Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Rooted in more than two thousand years of Chinese circus traditions, this fun for all age’s event will be in performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19 in Castle Theater at MACC. Tickets range from $12 to $55 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event visit MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.

*****

Join Ari Shaffir for a night of comedy. Stand-up comedian, podcaster and actor Shaffir describes his comedy as a puppet show, except it’s much filthier and without the puppets. The New York native grew up Orthodox Jewish, spent two years in a yeshiva in Israel, and came back to America to lose his religion and become a comic. Joining Shaffir on the bill is opening guest Chino LaForge. The performance is at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17 in the McCoy Studio Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $41 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org. This performance contains adult content and is not appropriate for children.

*****

Maui OnStage and Surf Rents Trucks presents the Maui Fringe Theater Festival 2020. This weekend marathon of the performing arts features local and mainland actors, dancers, singers and playwrights from Jan. 23 through 26 at Historic Iao Theater. The original 60-minute, one-act plays in performance at the 10th annual Fringe are “Chemo Barbie” by Heather Keller, “Cave Girl the Musical” by Glennis McCarthy, “He Wants To Run” by David Kleinberg, “How Can I Help?” by Victoria McGee, “Maui Belly Dance Company” and “My Name Is Mommy” by April Wish. Tickets are $15 per show with a limited number of $75 VIP passes available by phone only at 242-6969.

All-festival passes include admission to all of the performances, a catered opening night party and the closing night awards ceremony.

For the complete Maui Fringe schedule, visit mauionstage.com. The Maui Fringe Theater Festival contains adult content, and may not appropriate for children.

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