THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME AT APOLLINAIRE THEATRE COMPANY
Apollinaire Theatre’s free waterfront productions have become one of the best things about summertime in Boston, and it’s not hard to see why: The performance is free, the parking is free, it’s easily accessible by public transit, and the allure of picnicking on a breezy mound of grass overlooking the water is undeniable. But here’s the other thing: Apollinaire always does really, really good work.
Last summer’s unforgettable production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the new gold standard for outdoor Shakespeare, if you ask me) was nominated for two Elliot Norton Awards, no small feat considering the sheer number of productions that open in Boston each year. And while this year’s offering, Simon Stephens’ Tony-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, doesn’t approach the brilliance of last summer’s dream of a production (both were directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques), it remains impressive and ambitious, both of which have become reliable hallmarks of the small but mighty Chelsea theater company.
Based on the mega-bestseller by Mark Haddon, Curious Incident tells the story of Christopher Boone (a remarkable Seamus G. Doyle), a young boy—and mathematical genius—determined to find out who is responsible for the killing of his neighbor’s dog. Though it’s never mentioned specifically, Christopher has some sort of autism spectrum disorder, and the gimmick, if you will, of the original London and Broadway productions was that, owing to modern technical marvels of stagecraft, audiences were able to see the events of the play unfold as sensationally as its 15-year-old protagonist.
It is ultra-ambitious, then, that Fauteux Jacques has chosen to strip this production down to its bones so that the focus of the evening becomes the performances and the script rather than dazzling choreography and stagecraft. And this isn’t necessarily a mistake (remember what I said about Apollinaire’s ambition?) but doing so exposes, if not the flaws of the play, then at the very least its weaknesses. This production excels because of Fauteux Jacques’ propulsive staging and hard-earned performances from most of this tight-knit ensemble of 10.
But there is at least one mammoth reason not to miss this production, which must close this weekend: Seamus G. Doyle—just 16 years old—is giving, at the very least, the performance of the summer. What a privilege it is to witness a young actor achieve such remarkable success, completely and utterly lost in a character that is nothing if not a challenge. Effortless and heartbreaking, it’s a performance that ought to be seen by anyone who might one day want to brag: “I saw him when.”
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME. THROUGH 7.28 AT APOLLINAIRE THEATRE COMPANY AT PORT PARK, 99 MARGINAL ST., CHELSEA. APOLLINAIRETHEATRE.COM
DEAR EVAN HANSEN AT BROADWAY IN BOSTON
Having just recently surpassed 1,000 performances on Broadway, the six-time Tony Award-winning Best Musical is everything you’ve heard it is and more as the first national tour finally arrives at Boston’s Citizens Bank Opera House. Tears were welling up in the corners of my eyes 10 minutes into the performance, so that should give you some idea of what shape I was in by the musical’s brutally emotional ending.
Wanting nothing more than to belong, high schooler Evan Hansen (an-out-of-this-world good Ben Levi Ross) pretends to be the best friend of a fellow student who has committed suicide in order to finally feel like he’s a part of something. The score, by young wunderkinds Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land; The Greatest Showman) goes down easy, with all the songs sounding vaguely like something you think you might have heard before. But Dear Evan Hansen is that unusually original Broadway musical not based on any other source material, and Pasek and Paul—along with book writer Steven Levenson—have created a modern musical that further emphasizes Hamilton’s point that we very well may be experiencing another golden age of musical theater.
But of course, we already know that Dear Evan Hansen is good. The question then becomes: “Is it that good?” (Yes). “Do I need to see it?” (Yes). Director Michael Greif rarely receives enough credit for his work, and his direction here is another airtight example of why he has been one of theater’s preeminent directors for more than two decades (his career all but began with a little musical called Rent).
The most astounding thing about this first national tour, however, is the central performance of Ben Levi Ross, whose performance is infused with a pain that feels like a punch to the gut. He’s incredible, and he’s giving what is likely to be one of the best performances of the year, in this city or any. Don’t miss this one.
DEAR EVAN HANSEN. THROUGH 8.4 AT THE CITIZENS BANK OPERA HOUSE, 539 WASHINGTON ST., BOSTON. BROADWAY.BOSTON.COM