Tony Award winner 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' brings sights, sounds, and understanding to Philadelphia

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is making its way to the Kimmel Center for its Philadelphia premiere. (WPVI)

As the Kimmel Center hosts the play for theatergoers, the Philadelphia Free Library is featuring the novel for readers.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the longest running play on Broadway in the past ten years and now it's made its way to the Kimmel Center for its Philadelphia premiere.

The show has won five Tony awards including Best Play and it's also the star of the Free Library of Philadelphia's "One Book, One Philadelphia" program, which is celebrating its 15th year.

The play tells the story of 15-year-old Christopher, a teen who is exceptionally intelligent, but who finds it hard to interpret everyday life.

When he's under suspicion of killing his neighbor's dog, he sets out to find who really did it and the audience follows along inside Christopher's mind.

"For him, sights and sounds can be overwhelming, so the way the set is designed, the way the music is incorporated, really gives you an insight into what it's like to be in that situation," Maria Elena Ramirez, who plays Siobhan, told Action News.

While they never diagnose Christopher with autism, they allude to the fact that he's on the spectrum and it's helping many families connect through theater.

"There's a lot of silent conversations with teachers or parents of kids on the spectrum and a lot of understanding nods, which is great, it means you are doing it justice, you are bringing truth and honesty to the story, " actor Benjamin Wheelwright, who plays Christopher, said.

Wheelwright calls acting in 'The Curious Incident' an honor.

"It's a great piece of theater. It tells a great story, which first and foremost is the thing I am most behind, that the story is very effective and has a lot of heart," Wheelwright said.

Ramirez's character of Siobhan is Christopher's teacher who guides him on his journey by getting him to write about what he experiences in his life.

"They have a special relationship in that I think she really understands the challenges he faces and is able to communicate with him in a way that he really responds to," Ramirez said.

The story, choreography, and effects set 'The Curious Incident' apart from other plays, the actors say.



"Not only is it an extraordinary, theatrical event with the set that we have, which is based on the matrix, we have a lot of fun technological aspects to our show which I think some people would enjoy, but it's really a story about family and community and I think that's something that everybody can relate to," Ramirez said.

"It's unlike any other piece of theater I've ever seen. It has the lights, it has the sounds, it has the projection, it has movement, dance, people getting lift off into space. It's a feast for the eyes," Wheelwright said.

As much as a thrill it is for a ticketholder to go to the theater, Wheelwright says, while travelling around the country, the actors are excited to see the different venues they perform at. Here in Philadelphia, it's the Academy of Music.

"We're playing at the Academy of Music which is a stunning theater. It's rustic and old wood, and to see the sort of stark grid set, it's a really cool contrast. Immediately, once you step foot into the theater, you're immersed into this bizarre theatrical experience and I think it's going to be great for people to come check it out," Wheelwright said.

The play is based on Mark Haddon's 2003 novel. Wheelwright says for those who have read the story, they will be pleased.

"If you're a fan of the book, it's true to the book. A lot of the dialogue is taken directly from the book. It honors the book very, very well," Wheelwright says.

The Free Library of Philadelphia has chosen Haddon's novel as the centerpiece of this year's 'One Book, One Philadelphia' campaign.



Kalela Williams of the Free Library says they loved the way the book made people think about what makes us all unique.

"We thought the deeper issues in this book, about thinking differently, and appreciating the way that we think differently was super important," Williams said.

But it's not just the words that stood out to the 'One Book' committee.

"We love that book has illustrations, that it has pictures, that it has math problems. We thought it was fun, we thought it was exciting," Williams said.

The Free Library's 'One Book, One Philadelphia' calendar of events centered on the novel concludes with a grand finale on March 23 at the Parkway Central Library.

"It's First Person Arts - it's storytellers who have read the book and who will tell stories that have been inspired by themes in the book," Williams said.

The Free Library is also offering age appropriate companion books for younger readers - 'Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World' and 'My Cousin Momo' - to connect to themes in Haddon's novel.

Williams says 'One Book, One Philadelphia's' goal is to promote literacy, library usage, and community building by encouraging the city to come together around a featured book.

"The idea is that everyone can access a featured book from a different way, different ways of learning, different ways of thinking, and also in an interdisciplinary way," Williams said.

Copies of the novel are available at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' runs through this Sunday, March 5th at the Kimmel Center's Academy of Music.

For more information and tickets on the tour, visit http://www.curiousontour.com/.

For more information on The Free Library of Philadelphia's 'One Book, One Philadelphia' program, visit https://libwww.freelibrary.org/onebook.

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