Don’t miss Portland Center Stage’s inclusive and moving production on the U.S. Bank Main Stage.
I first read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon in one delicious gulp on an airplane. When I heard the stage adaptation of the novel was coming to Portland Center Stage at the Armory after a pandemic pause, I jumped at the chance to introduce my tweens to Christopher, the fifteen-year-old neurodivergent protagonist who absolutely captivated me on that plane trip.
Everything I loved about the novel — the wit, the morally complex characters, Christopher’s unique and genuine voice — all of it translated perfectly in the staged production. The acting is spectacular. I was particularly impressed with Jamie Sanders’s portrayal of Christopher. Autism consultant Troy Sawyer worked closely with the cast and crew, and it shows. Sawyer’s ability to communicate the perspective of a person with autism makes the performance truly representative of the community. He wasn’t on stage, but his work was evident in every scene.
Sanders himself shares that his experience with Tourettes Syndrome informs his portrayal of Christopher. In an interview with Literary Manager Kamilah Bush he says, “I have a number of mannerisms and movements that I ‘program’ into my body using my tourettic impulses . . . Christopher and I move our hands for different reasons, but I am not pretending to have the urge to move my body like I do.” His performance was genuine and moving, and Christopher could not have been more respectfully depicted. From the land acknowledgement to the diverse cast, to the request for donations to provide access for those for whom cost is a barrier, Portland Center Stage has made their commitment to inclusion clear.
The set design, which seems sterile at first, comes alive as the story builds. Its transformation into a train station is beautifully done. The use of light and movement combined with clever blocking makes the performance as visually appealing as it is emotionally moving.
While I did bring my tweens to the performance, the show is recommended for ages 13 and up. There are adult themes and language, and scenes of domestic violence. It is the emotional weight of the show, however, more than the language and adult content, that makes me agree that it is more appropriate for teens. They can better handle the complex nature of the characters, especially Christopher’s parents, played brilliantly by Ayanna Berkshire and Leif Norby. If you don’t have teens in the house, the show is definitely worth the cost of a sitter for date night.
Portland Center Stage is offering a sensory-friendly performance on December 21, at 7:30 pm. Guests will be free to make sounds, enter and exit as needed, and enjoy the show. The theater environment will also be altered to accommodate guests who are neurodivergent or have sensory issues. See their accessibility page to learn about captioned, audio description, and sign interpreted performances. The theater is wheelchair and walker accessible, and large print playbills are available upon request.
Buy tickets here, before they’re all gone! The theater was almost full opening weekend, and given the way the audience responded to the show, I’m guessing they’ll tell their friends how spectacular it is.
When: November 27 – December 24, 2021, 2 pm and 7:30 pm, select nights. Sensory performance December 21, 7:30 pm
Where: U.S. Bank Main Stage, 128 NW Eleventh Ave, Portland, OR 97209
Cost: Tickets start at $25. Is cost a barrier? Check out their specials, including “Pay What You Will” nights and $5 tickets through Arts for All.
A video of the show will be available for viewing from December 13-19.