KC Rep creates window into Autism with newest production

After two plus hours of fast-paced, non-stop action, I left Spencer Theater Friday night with an altered sense of space and time. This highly-anticipated evening of the opening of KC Rep’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, became the first sold-out pre-production performance in Rosen’s 10-year career.

“They may have to stop the play,” feared Rosen. Things could go off the rails from several directions; a very involved mechanical set, trap doors in the floor, choreography that blurs the mind, as well as the vision – the cast delivers lines by calling out a blaze of dialogue as they make their collective machine-like round and round movements.

In the middle of the production’s mayhem stands young Jamie Sanders, taking on the role of Christopher. In real life, Sanders creates and posts YouTube videos on Autism, and a disease Sanders himself is grappling with, Tourette’s Syndrome.

As the audience witnesses the cold-blooded murder of a neighbor’s dog, Christopher is almost hauled off to jail. After the sudden death of his mother, he buries himself in the details of the dog’s murder and launches a door-to-door search. As a 15-year-old, determined to ace a college-level math exam, Christopher must catch the dog killer.

His stunning performance gives a brief look into the movement and music that continuously moves through the mind of a person with Autism. Certain functions such as list-making, rhythm, math calculation and acute memory, can all be quite advanced in people with Autism.

Meaningless phrases are constantly used as a way to cope with the inability to fit in. Some people never have the feeling they will belong and feel they would be better off by themselves, or better off with machines and computers, without being touched.

Metaphors and so-called common phrases such as “I’m sorry,” “it’s difficult,” “you are the apple of my eye,” and “let me take your arm,” can confuse, even frustrate those on the Autistic spectrum – a simple loving touch may make them fall into the fetal position on the floor. To those with Autism, the words of comfort that are off-handedly offered can seem frightful and confusing.

“This Midwest Premiere is an exclusive engagement,” offered Rosen, “and we thank the community and its institutions for their overwhelming response.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is a window into Autism.

 

The show runs through Feb. 18 at The Spencer Theater, with a special sensory friendly production tailored for individuals with autism and other sensory sensitivities on Feb. 13. For more information visit KCREP.org/sensory

 

dbv98@mail.umkc.edu

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