Delta Drama’s curious new play adapts a heart-wrenching story

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Delta Drama started its production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” in Tillie Lewis Theatre on Feb. 28. 

The play, adapted from the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon, depicts autistic fifteen-year-old Christopher’s (Joseph Dahl) search for the person who killed his neighbor’s dog. While the play is a mystery, it is much more than that — it is an exploration into the effects of autism, not only on the individual on the spectrum itself, but on his family as well. In fact, there is a heavy emphasis on Christopher’s relationship with his father, Ed, (Benjamin Winer) and mother, Judy (Daniela Santiuste-Loera). 

It is a very intense play. The show starts off with fierce yelling right as the dead dog is discovered and the intensity from this first scene does not fade away. 

Even though the play is rife with comedic moments, the tension still builds over time, forcing the audience at the edge of its seat to watch the drama unfold. 

One could feel the audience relax at intermission after an incredibly climatic moment because of how tense everything felt. 

It’s emotional and messy to watch how challenging the lives of those with autism can be at times. 

The immense emotion of the play can be attributed to Dahl’s acting. Whether the lead is crying, screaming in fear, or simply talking about his interests, his depiction of Christopher is full of life and energy. His acting is what truly turns Christopher into a fully-realized character the audience cares for.

Dahl also exhibits certain mannerisms those on the autism spectrum display including stimming which is defined as “repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech” by the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit that assists families of those struggling with mental illness.

There was obviously some research put into autism and how those on the spectrum behave. This attention to detail is present in Christopher’s character as well as how Ed and Siobhan, one of Christopher’s teachers (Nina Thiel), interact with him.  

The actors overall did a great job on stage. 

Despite Thiel’s reading of Christopher’s journal being a bit stiff, she is able to capture both Siobhan’s pride and concern over the young boy.Wimer does a phenomenal job of playing a powerfully angry and confused father and elevates the most serious of scenes. 

There was also a good amount of versatility from actors who played multiple roles. 

Rachel Engh, who plays Mrs. Shears among others, is fantastic at switching into different roles at the drop of a hat. The ensemble in general (Cassie Garcia, Nicholas Hernandez, Brianna Pacheco, Alexandra Perez, Vince Sosa) worked cohesively to both act and move props off and on the stage.

Aside from acting, the set design is also something to marvel at. Monitors hover in the air above the stage and change what is displayed on screen to add to the narrative. 

Whether it displays a set of numbers Christopher is counting off or the setting the characters are currently at in scene, it is a feature that inspires awe to see and adds something special to the production. 

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is an emotional powerhouse that can teach us how deeply autism can affect people’s lives and how important it is to ensure children they are capable of achieving anything. 

The play will continue to run on March 6-7 at 7 p.m. and March 8 at 2 p.m.  Delta Drama will run productions of “Everybody” from May 1-10 in Muller Studio Theatre and “Urinetown” from July 17-26 in Tillie Lewis Theatre. 

General admission is free.You can reserve tickets either by calling the DCA Box Office at (209) 954-110 or visiting dca.deltacollege.edu.