“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is playwright Simon Stephens' adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name by Mark Haddon.
Adam Langdon stars as 15-year-old Christopher Boone in the Tony Award-winning play's first U.S. tour at the Ahmanson Theatre through Sept. 10 and at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts from Sept. 12-17.
Boone is incredibly intelligent. But because of his difficulty interpreting and conveying emotion, he has a hard time navigating everyday life. When he's suspected of killing his neighbor's dog, he decides to solve the case on his own, setting in motion a journey that leads to a life-changing discovery.
Langdon recently spoke with The Frame's John Horn about the play and the complicated task of playing a character with an un-named disorder that many would interpret as autism.
On playing a character who cannot articulate his emotions, and whether there were certain things he knew he could or could not do in his portrayal of Christopher:
I don't think we ever talked about what he could not do. The word no was very rarely said, which is always really helpful. There were some stylistic things that I implemented for a lot of rehearsal that I was then told to take away. But I found that once they'd been away, the emotion that was brought with them was still there.
On connecting with Christopher's character:
One of the things I really wanted to bring to the part was that Christopher is a teenager, and we've all been there. We've all been at that point where dad has said something and we just roll our eyes because it is so stupid. And Christopher goes through that a lot because he thinks most people are a lot dimmer than he is. So that was one of the ways for me to bring myself into Christopher, to be a teenager, to be annoyed by Dad, to be confused by [his teacher] Siobhan, to be weirded out by whatever Mom is saying to him at that time. And it fed into my Christopher well. It was lucky that that choice ended up working because that was kind of my 'in' on him, really.
On what it's like to play a character with an unspecified disorder:
It's never mentioned in the play, it's never mentioned in the book. But he has hangups. He's got things he doesn't like: certain colors, sounds, being touched. These are things that are big no-nos for him. And to navigate that world, it's a complex thing. He has to have a schedule, he has to know when everything is going on. And if something screws with his schedule, that can kind of destroy his world for a second ... I think the main thing is to try not to [mimic] something you've seen or heard or read about, and really focus in on the fact that he is a human. Like all of us, he's had disappointments, he's had joy, he's had sadness. He has trouble conveying all these things, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have them. I think it all connects to being a teenager. It's one of the most complicated parts of life and to navigate it with all this extra stuff, you know, he's a champ.
On the interactive set and physicality of the play:
The audience and the set are the unspoken characters of the piece. And me and this set have to work together in a lot of different ways ... Every morning in rehearsal we'd do an hour-and-a-half of boot camp and that sweating together really brought us together. Then we'd do three hours of movement stuff. It was rough but, again, not saying no — saying yes. Christopher requires bravery from everyone in the play because he finds bravery within himself. There's this sequence called 'Astro Boy.' He's talking about wanting to be an astronaut and I'm kneeling on two people's shoulders and I'm not hanging onto anyone and it's scary. Because I know I have to fall backwards and hope that people catch me. And that's just one part of a bigger segment. And it sounds silly ... but I was just like, Christopher needs you to be brave so just do it. It's your job.