Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” afforded readers a rare glimpse into the world of a 15-year-old boy who suffers from Asperger syndrome, on the autism spectrum. The playwright Simon Stephens adapted the book into a play, which had a successful run in London. Now, thanks to director Gilad Kimchi and a talented and enthusiastic group of creative associates, Israeli theater-goers are being offered an extraordinary experience. You emerge from the performance at Beit Lessin Theater in Tel Aviv believing you can truly feel what is transpiring in the psyche of Christopher Boone, the youngster who sets out to discover who murdered a dog and ends up bringing his mother back to life.
The text has been rendered into flowing, clear Hebrew by Daniel Efrat; Eran Atzmon has designed a set in the form of a slightly tilted cube made of archive file boxes, which reflect the workings of Christopher’s brain – he experiences reality by filing its details. Lighting designer Keren Granek and video artist Yoav Cohen create a fantastic reality on the stage, a swirl of endless stimuli, giving visual expression to Christopher’s complex, strange and wonderful-in-its-way world. Amir Lakner adds the mind-blowing sounds that blast his head. The fact that Kimchi is also a splendid choreographer adds movement that serves as musical imagery and brings to the stage a sea, a train station and the streets of London. But all this is merely the backdrop for the stunning work of the actors, under Kimchi’s guidance. They function as individual characters, but also as a chorus in Christopher’s head and as a kind of set in perpetual motion: dramatizing, disintegrating, threatening and softening. Liat Goren is delightful as an elderly neighbor who seems to have stepped out of a fairy tale; Liz Rabian has some wonderful moments; and Dror Teplitsky, Danny Geva, Tal Danino and Aviva Nagosa are each an essential element in a rare coalescence of harmony.
Yoram Toledano brings sensitivity to the complicated character of the father, and Yael Sharoni is Judy, the mother who disappears from Christopher’s world and returns to it. Noa Biron plays Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher, and also performs the part of the alter ego of this limited but special boy.
Nadav Nates, in the lead role, is nothing short of a genuine wonder: his posture on the stage, his body seemingly slightly twisted but completely loose; his flat, businesslike voice, seeming to transmit only information but actually shaping and delineating worlds of feeling. There was something so convincing about his performance that for a moment at the end I was ready to swear that, at the age of 15 and with Asperger’s, he is capable of anything.
This is quality theater at its best.