Curiouser and Curiouser

Production at Portland Center Stage Nov. 27 a Dec. 24

I went to see the preview night of Portland Center Stage’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I should probably have blogged about it right away, but I’ve been a lazy blogger the past couple years. I wasn’t getting out much for some reason.

I’m glad the reasons to get out are coming back. Going to a live theater production with a masked and vaxxed audience was quite an event. But I was a little nervous.

The original novel the play is based on was on my initial research list when I was learning about my own autistic nature. I really appreciated the book, but also, I read it at a very vulnerable time in my life. Revisiting the story might aggravate some old wounds from then. But I was also curious.

How would a play translate the very internal first-person story of Christopher’s investigation? Would Christopher’s portrayal seem genuine? Would I just find the whole experience difficult because I had to sit close to other people for an extended amout of time?

Interesting, yes, and not so bad.

It was an interesting interpretation. The first act felt very true to the novel, while the second act had to take more liberties. I don’t object to the changes, because I was genuinely curious how they’d pull it off. The second act is a bit more theatrical than the novel was, but what do you expect? It’s being put on by theater people.

More importantly was Jamie Sanders’ portrayal of the main character. Yes. Wow. Yes. Jamie managed to portray a genuine, consistent, and believable autistic teenage boy. I could see someone similar to myself in the character. I could see a character whose perspective was integral to the story. And I saw a level of dedication and craft on the part of Jamie Sanders that made the character ring true.

I could go on about how Jamie Sanders worked closely with an autistic colleague, Troy Sawyer, to inform his portrayal. I could also mention that Sanders has Tourette Syndrome, and was very motivated by his own lived experience to ensure his performance was respectful of autistic people’s lived experience. Or I could just tag one of his YouTube videos about Tourettes. Also, I’ll say that his portrayal of Christopher having a meltdown looked like, from the outside, what some of my meltdowns felt like on the inside.

As for the third part, yeah. I was a little uncomfortable. I had to use the family restroom at intermission because I just couldn’t see myself peeing with someone else standing next to me.

But it wasn’t unbearable. In fact, after the show I saw Jamie talking to people in the lobby. I’d been thinking about how much I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated his performance. And you know what? I did it. I went up and, using the bit of practice I’ve had, used those frightening but empowering words to introduce myself, “Hi, my name’s Andrew and I’m an adult-diagnosed autistic.”

Even though the world went a little wobbly as I said it, the opening words help me find the next words and we had a brief little conversation. He talked more about his desire to bring an authentic portrayal to the role. He also asked me if I shake hands. I said sure, I’m all kinds of vaccinated. It was only afterwards that I realized that, pandemic aside, that was a very respectful way to make sure an autistic person is okay with the physical contact of a handshake.

That guy knows what he’s doing.

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