Friday, February 23, 2024

See It Now: A Sensory Extravaganza in Escondido

 By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt


Please Stand By. The start of the show, photographed by
Scenic Designer Matthew Herman, who along with
Mike Billings (Lighting Design) and Blake McCarty (Projection Design)
turns the stage picture into a constantly changing
work of art. (Matthew Herman)

If you’re a lifelong theater enthusiast or simply a lover of extraordinary events that feature brilliant performances, stunning scenic, lighting, and costume design and imaginative soundscapes, you have until March 3 to catch The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at California Center for the Arts in Escondido.

This first-time-in-San-Diego production, presented by CCAE Theatricals, evokes all the dictionary definitions of Brilliant: very bright and radiant, striking, distinctive, extremely intelligent and impressive.

The play started out as a prizewinning 2003 novel by Mark Haddon, a British writer, about a 15-year-old boy the author once described as “a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties.” Haddon called his book “a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way.” It’s actually an odd kind of mystery story, that starts out with a murdered dog.

In 2012, playwright Simon Stephens and the National Theatre in London turned the novel into a multi-award-winning production, which then became a multi-award-winner on Broadway. There were touring companies, so my husband and I got to see the show in L.A. in 2017. It was minimalist, but unforgettable.

CCAE’s version of Curious Incident takes the emotionally moving, often weirdly funny play to a whole new level, visually and sonically. Not only is the stage picture a constantly changing artwork, it’s also a central character in the show, further enhanced by Jon Fredette's  sound design. This gives audiences a chance to feel what it’s like to be on what we now call the autism spectrum and makes it thrilling to identify with the main character, Christopher, who is truly special. 

Two more views of the show from the Scenic Designer below. (Matthew Herman)

Christopher’s dad, distraught, after discovering his son is gone.
Note the giant projection of Christopher in the background. (Matthew Herman)

Christopher at the train station. (Matthew Herman)

Daniel Patrick Russell, the actor who plays Christopher, is on the spectrum himself, and his performance is riveting. Born in Australia, he has been making his mark on international stages for over a decade and appearing in films and on TV as well. He’s the heart and soul of the gifted ensemble here, and no photo can capture the way he moves.

 Daniel Patrick Russell as Christopher, addressing the audience at the end of the show. (Maurice Hewitt)

Kudos to everyone connected with Curious Incident: producer, director, actors, designers, composer, choreographer and all the tech people behind the scenes. If you’re reading this now, the best thing to do is phone 800-988-4253.  
For showtimes and other details: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Center Theater, California Center for the Arts in Escondido through March 3rd.

 And don’t miss The Art of Autism, a small exhibit of works by autistic artists on view in the lobby.

The Way It Was…It Was What It Is., mixed media piece by Clark Warren. (Maurice Hewitt)

Some of the paintings on display. (Maurice Hewitt)


Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has been writing about arts and lifestyles in San Diego County for over a dozen years. You can reach her at

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