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‘Remarkable’ play takes the Sterling stage
Ty Fulbright, left, plays Christopher, a 15-year-old boy with autism and the central character in Sterling High School Theatre’s spring play, “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.” Rehearsing with him is Lucas Gilmore who plays the character’s father in the play.

STERLING — “Extraordinary,” “pulse-pounding,” “unusual,” and “remarkable” are a few of the words that have been used to describe the Sterling High School Theatre spring production. Simon Stephens’s theatrical adaptation of Mark Haddon’s mystery novel “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 25-27, with an additional matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, at the school.

That the play is “unusual” will be obvious as the audience is seated, “We are placing the show and audience onstage because it is very intimate. We did this a few years ago for “The Amish Project.” Because of social distancing needs, we are doing four performances with 50 audience members each performance,” said director Betsy Dutton.

The play features 15-year-old protagonist, Christopher Boone played by junior Ty Fulbright. His unusual habits and thought processes infer a level of high-functioning autism. Christopher is nimble with numbers but has some behavioral irregularities. He lives with his widowed father and rarely interacts with the world beyond his home.

The mystery begins when Christopher discovers the neighbor’s dog viciously murdered with a pitchfork. The police are called, and Christopher’s odd social tendencies bring him into the suspicious gaze of the authorities. He fixates on solving the murder despite his father’s order to remain uninvolved. Notwithstanding his fears and miscomprehension of the world outside his limited scope, Christopher sets off on an adventure that leads him from his little neighborhood to big-city London and introduces him to a wider, wilder world than he could have invented. 

“I’ve loved this play since I read it and used it several years ago for a forensics cutting and I’m thrilled that we get to do it here in Sterling,” said Dutton. “It is, first and foremost, a story about being different. Christopher, a neuro-atypical teenage boy, is struggling to make sense of the world around him and build human connections. Like many coming-of-age stories and stories that feature the hero’s journey structure, we watch Christopher venture outside of his comfort zone. He faces conflict and works to overcome it, with the audience’s support every step of the way.” 

“The task I’ve given Ty in playing Christopher is Herculean. He is on stage every minute. Ty is bright, and it takes someone intelligent and sensitive to play the role,” Dutton said. “This is only Ty’s second time on the SHS stage – so it’s a tall order – but I think audiences will be amazed and moved by his performance.”

Fulbright said, “The most difficult thing about playing Christopher is trying to understand the mind of someone with autism. His movements, thoughts, actions, and language is so unlike what I am like. He is in a world of his own. Plus, the physicality of the role, with his tantrums and the screaming. Then there’s the proximity of the audience. This is definitely a challenge.”

“Honestly, I’m feeling a little panic-stricken, but my reaction at being cast as Christopher was the complete opposite of my mom’s reaction – she was ecstatic,” said Fulbright. His mother had several memorable roles on the Sterling stage in her day. “I just hope I can live up to everyone’s expectations,” Fulbright said.

Tickets for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” may be reserved by calling Sterling High School beginning March 22. The cost is $5 for adults and $4 for students. The show will run approximately 90 minutes.