I went to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time last Friday night, and I found it to be a thought provoking, well done production that connects to what we have discussed in this course on many levels. Very early on in the play, Christopher talks about the other children at his special school and shockingly assigns more value to the tragically murdered dog, Wellington, than to one of these boys who cannot even feed himself. Christopher’s genius in math and his repetition of the prime numbers as a calming mechanism for himself reminded me of several case reports in Dr. Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, one of which follows twin brothers with intellectual disabilities who can do complex math in their heads instantaneously without actually understanding how to do the math. There is a scene in the first act where Christopher’s dad argues with the principal of his school to allow him to take his math A levels that I found particularly relevant to our class discussion. The principal’s reason for not allowing Christopher to take the test is that she cannot allow him to be treated like he is special, all the while he is at a special school for children with disabilities. She comes across as simply very unwilling to ensure equity of access for her students but must eventually have a change of heart as she allows him to take the test even after his mother calls to cancel it. Another small connection I saw to our class was when Christopher names the models of cars he saw driving by in London as a tool for self-regulation. This reminds me of the poem “Normal” by Jim Ferris where the children watch cars drive by out the window of their institution and name them.
To me, the most impactful part of the play was Christopher’s relationship with his mother. The scene at the close of the first act where he discovers she is not dead and that she left him because she did not know how to connect with him and was ashamed by her faults in raising him and her lack of patience was very raw and emotional. His mother seeks to reconnect with him in the end, but, as an audience member, I still was not sure whether I forgive her character. In a way, she adopts the cure or kill mentality and “cures” her son in her mind by running away and idealizing what his life must be like with his father who can better understand him. I was also left to wonder whether the mother had some form of mental illness herself because the first thing Christopher asks when his father lies and says she is in the hospital is whether she is in a psychiatric hospital. Overall, I thought the play gave a rich look at the different implications of living with autism or being intimately connected to someone who does, both the highs, lows, and confusing times in between.