Not having read the original British novel by Mark Haddon on which The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was based, I was immediately struck by the similarity between this Tony Award-winning new play and the stage version of Haruki Murakami’s novel Kafka on the Shore which I saw in 2012 in Osaka (I found the stage version very moving and gratifying; the original cast with Yuya Yagira as Kafka, Yuko Tanaka as Saeki, and the amazing Hiroki Hasegawa as Oshima was indeed splendid). The followings are similarities. In terms of the content, both narratives focused on an unusual teenage boy; both narratives dealt with a boy’s search for his missing mother; and both boys had difficult relationships with their fathers. In terms of the production design, both utilized flashy electronic devices to express the boy’s confusion as he encountered the chaos of contemporary societies. But, the similarities end there. While Kafka’s world is all about metaphors, Christopher, the protagonist in the Curious Incident, does not understand metaphors since his perception of the world is guided by rigid literalness, which is the source of his difficulties in communicating with people. However, I thought the similarities between these two narratives significant and interesting, historically speaking. Though the character and thoughts of a teenage boy as a worthy subject to explore has a long history in American literature, from Huckleberry Finn to Holden Caulfield, the British and Japanese literature did not really consider them that important, perhaps reflecting each society’s values.
Now the lengthy preamble aside, the Broadway play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was excellent. From the very beginning the set design that showed the main character’s mathematical mind was at once unexpected and engaging. It was almost as if the production designers were trying to present images and clues so that we the audience could see the world from the perspective of Christopher Boone. Alex Sharp as Christopher who stayed on stage almost throughout the play was amazing in his physical as well as expressive agility. As he navigates the small country-life world and big-town life in London Christopher, who has been often considered at risk due to his autism-spectrum condition, grows up as a person who can more or less deal with the chaos of contemporary life. The ending was a little dissatisfying because it obfuscated some real-issue problems in Christopher’s family life. But, I can say unequivocally that the play ends happily.