I apologize again for my tardiness in getting these posts up. This time my legitimate excuse is that I've been producing a show, which you should come see for sure, David Harrower's Blackbird at the Grove Theatre Center in Burbank. It did just make Stage Raw's Top Ten by the way, up there with Hamilton & the show I'm about to write about. Also putting up a reading of a play I've been writing for the past five months this Friday: I'll keep you posted on that one as it is a work in progress.
Anyway, way back at the beginning of August, I was joined by my youngest LA Theatre Nerd companion to date, Miss Roxy. Having previously seen this show on Broadway, just before it swept up the Tony's for Best Play and Best Actor (the amazing Alex Sharp), I already knew what a truly unique book to stage adaptation we were about to experience (leave it the National Theatre to floor you every time). Although it does deal with some heavy, timeless themes, for the most part the show is kid-appropriate. So, I wanted to bring along my bright young friend and get her first-time-fresh feedback on it.
"A good day is a day for projects and planning things." -Christopher
It was good to revisit this piece of theatre. It is a very specific, crafted interpretation of one boy's journey through life with autism and the obstacles that arise both his family and himself. As I wrote down in my notebook, "This is a play about dealing with shit." Christopher's struggle with his disorder, for me at least, was a parallel to how we fight against or sometimes flow with disorder itself in our own lives. And it's about achieving little things in life, new things, that at first seemed insurmountable but now prove to us that we can do even greater things that we believed possible. At the end of the show, Christopher tells his counselor that he now has the confidence to become a physicist or an astronaut, making great discoveries, all because he survived getting on a train from his home to central London, a task that his personality and disorder had previously deemed terrifying. The play brought me back to moments in my life like that, where I was faced with a challenge I had already rationalized I simply could not do, and then somehow life throws you into a backflip and you've done it. I think we've all been through that at some point. This time around, the play doesn't necessarily make me want to change anything about myself, but it motivates, which I suppose in essence is a change in attitude. As I'm workshopping my new play, I recently reached out to a residency program at a local venue. I started to get just a tiny bit discouraged when I read that the venue challenged applying companies to champion new works or works new to LA. I knew that was possible, but a challenge, considering that there are definitely previously published works that I'm interested in mounting. But what really got me down was the next brief, blunt statement that required that the company provide "sufficient independent funding" in the costs necessary to mount their productions. That was a bit of a buzzkill and I thought to myself, "Ok. Well that will never work out...How will I ever be able to mount another show?" BUT, recalling on this play helps me remember all the other times in my life when I jumped to negative conclusions and was then surprised that when something needs to happen, and when one needs to grow, it just happens. As a wise artist once told me, "When art is supposed to exist, there is nothing that can stop it from being made. It just has to be made."
Technically speaking, the show is a set and lighting designers dream. Paul Constable's projections and nearly animated lighting fixtures truly bring Christopher's imagination to life. And Bunny Christie's set design matches that and of course Marianne Elliott's visionary and visual direction of the play. When you see the show, you'll see what I mean in that apart from the story's gripping, relatable journey, visually the show is an absolute treat and a pioneer for technical design in modern theatre.
This we are pretty sure was Roxy's first ever straight play experience. And she absolutely loved it. On the ride home, the show triggered a dialogue about our experiences with Autism at school. Roxy also felt highly motivated by Christopher's journey and achievements as she jumps feet first into her new school year.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time runs through September 10 at the Ahmanson Theatre. Definitely one to knock off the bucket-list of Tony-awarded best play viewings, and hopefully remind you that sometimes, when it's necessary, we go out there and prove the impossible.