I try to avoid reading reviews until I can see the show, so I don’t know if most articles about this ambitious and successful production mention the situation of the main character. The audience discovers it within a few moments of the (non-existent) curtain going up. But I fear disclosing the situation here will discourage attendance, which would be a disservice to all involved.
This is a play that brings the audience into the mind of the main character via a combination of successful techniques. The stage represents a three dimensional grid, by which Christopher sees the world. Stunningly portrayed by Tyler Lea in his Broadway debut, Christopher maneuvers through his English residence with resilience. (Benjamin Wheelwright handles the lead role in two performances each week).
The stage is first perceived as rather simple and basic, but is eventually revealed to be complex and multi-faceted. Never before have I seen such a reflexive relationship between stage and character. Kudos to Bunny Christie for scenic and costume design.
Hidden doors in the floor and walls contain various props, such as a model train that is built in stages as the storyline progresses. The train’s dramaturgical role bursts into clarity as the first act closes. The walls close in metaphorically and otherwise when Christopher’s world implodes.
Similarly, the effective sound design (by Ian Dickinson for Autograph) puts the sound in Christopher’s brain squarely in the audience’s ears.
The able supporting cast (particularly the parents played by Enid Graham and Andrew Long) perform in a riveting, tight manner as choreographed by Scott Graham and Steve Hoggett for Frantic Assembly.
But all the elements hinge on the writing of Simon Stephens, who based the play on Mark Haddon’s novel. The undercurrent of promises made generate extreme empathy for Christopher as he moves through the challenges laid before him. Effective use of math and science echo the writing of Tom Stoppard, and the question of whether the fourth wall is broken linger enticingly.
I was tempted to reference a few other productions that came to mind while watching this entrancing play, but that would spoil much of the surprise and awe I experienced. Of the myriad producers listed, there is the seemingly ubiquitous Scott Rudin. When it comes to being one of the few so-called EGOT success stories (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar Tony), Rudin has certainly earned his stripes.