Sunday, November 19, 2017

Better than Broadway: Mixed Blood's Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-Time

Broadway isn't always better.

At least that was my thought upon watching A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the latest (terrific) offering from Mixed Blood Theater. I was lucky enough to see the touring Broadway production of this show last year (you can read my review here), and as much as I enjoyed it then the humbler origins of Mixed Blood's version made the story much more alive for me than ever before.

I'll skip the plot overview this time (a detailed one can be found by clicking here for last year's review), but I want to point out the facets of this production that really impressed me. Chief among them is the stunning performance by MacGregor Arney as Christopher, the main character. Arney's performance is riveting and career-making. He has clearly done his homework, blasting through the show with a kinetic energy that grips you by the throat. Arney has a relatively short resume to-date but I imagine that's about to change after this terrific, star-worthy performance, which is what really sets this production apart from the Broadway version I saw last year. The flashing lights and fancy tech of that production may have had all of the bells and whistles theater can possibly offer, but Arney's immersive, thoughtful take on Christopher in Mixed Blood's production is truly next level and really encapsulates Christopher's character. Go see Arney - you won't regret it.

Another favorite was new-to-me Regan Linton as Christopher's teacher Siobhan. Linton has a warm, comfortable stage presence that enfolds the entire narrative in the emotional equivalent of a plush blanket. It was so wonderful to see a differently abled performer (listen to the TCTB convo about the challenges faced by such performers on our YouTube channel here) on stage with no fuss or irony, just allowed to give a strong, profound performance - and Linton really delivers. I hope she sticks around the Twin Cities for a while, we need more of her.

Zack Myers is back at Mixed Blood (last seen in How to Use a Knife) as Christopher's father Ed. Myers reprises the darker energy of his last role, this time tempered with the frustrated love of a besieged parent at their wit's end. I'm really coming to enjoy Myers' restrained masculinity on stage, and he's a great choice for this part. Miriam Laube is perfectly cast as Christopher's estranged mother Judy. Laube brings real tears and an accessibly broken heart to her performance, and she and Myers make powerful foils for each other as the plot progresses.

There isn't much set to speak of for this performance other than a few artfully arranged cubes that can serve intermittently as doors, tables, beds, etc., and a number of psychedelic projections. It's Mixed Blood's signature spare delivery, and I honestly didn't mind the lack of embellishment. The performances in this show are so necessarily vivid and vital that a lavish staging would take the focus away from where it needs to be, and this approach allowed the audience to fully engage with Arney's showstopping acting. Props are cleverly handled and selected by Abbee Warmboe, and the ingenious idea to embed the extras in the audience throughout the show (thanks to Movement Director Brian Bose and Producer/Director Jack Reuler) not only keeps the energy going at a fast pace but further enhances the feeling that the audience is truly a part of this story.

To my mind, the most extraordinary element of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the way in which it fully embeds us into the head of "the other." Christopher is someone we "normal" people (although what even does that mean, really?) encounter all the time but don't always know how to understand or reach. By placing us squarely into Christopher's perspective and forcing us to engage with the world through his eyes, we are all exposed to the wonderful things he sees and able to access far more compassion and admiration for his condition than we otherwise might. The miraculous revelations sprinkled throughout this show like so many magical breadcrumbs really do change your perspective after you leave the theater, and there's a lot to think about thanks to Arney's magnificent performance. Mixed Blood always delivers thoughtful, important work, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is planted squarely in their wheelhouse. Take an extended date night and make sure to check out this emotional play before it closes on December 3; for more information or to buy tickets, click on this link:

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