I am not very cultured.
Let’s be honest. I’d like to think I am. I’d love to be a pretentious Broadway snob who knows her way around New York theatre and secret art shows in her sleep.
Alas, I am not.
I have been entertained by a record number of 2 Broadways, and 1 off Broadway.
Therefore, this review is thoroughly uneducated and one thousand percent based on how other peoples magnificent talent made me feel. Perhaps those of you who are equally uncultured will feel safe reading this, or at least relate slightly to the awe one feels when in the presence of Broadway stars.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It has been nominated for 6 Tony awards for it’s perfection, but really could have won an award just for having the longest name.
A name that I promptly forgot when purchasing tickets over the phone- The mysterious case of the dog in the night?
I thoroughly appreciate the professionalism of the man on the other side of the phone who, without laughter, just responded “So, two tickets to the Curious Incident?”
Maybe I’m not the only one who has made that humiliating mistake.
Although I couldn’t remember the name then, it’s going to be a long time before I forget it.
That’s because this Broadway show was memorable in all kinds of ways.
I am the kind of girl who firmly stands behind “read the book before you see the movie.” I tend to mock those who only watch the movie and dismiss the book.
Hypocrite that I am, I watched the Broadway before I read the book. I am ashamed, but I enjoyed every moment of that Broadway, and I’m pretty sure that when I read the book this weekend, I’ll enjoy every moment of that too.
TCIOTDITN (much easier this way) was a story that didn’t just touch my heart, but it squeezed it with all its might.
To those of you who are even more unfamiliar than I am about this- the story is about a 15 year old autistic boy who is determined to find the murderer of his neighbors dog. As the story goes, it gets more complicated, and like in life, when he goes looking he finds things he never wanted to find.
As I sat there in my seat, way too far from the stage (thank you $30 tickets!,) I saw all the children I’ve ever met who behaved like this boy. I saw all the humans in the world who have ever been misunderstood, overwhelmed, or scared when working so hard to achieve their dreams. More than once, I saw myself.
The actor playing the main part Christopher, Tyler Lea, was magnificently talented. He not only took on the role of Christopher and played it seamlessly, he also took on the role of every single audience member, (and that audience changes every day) and played each part perfectly.
One of my favorite scenes was when Christopher was sitting on the train, speeding towards London. He explains how he is different than everyone else on the train because nobody else sees everything the way he does. They have the ability to look out the window, notice one thing and then get back to completely unrelated thoughts. He, on the other hand, looks outside and sees every blade of grass, every cow, every tiny detail until it overwhelms him to the point of wetting himself.
While I sat there thanking G-d that I can focus on one detail, and that I can look out the window and not become overwhelmed by the things I see, or more like the things I don’t see, I realized that maybe I don’t have it best.
How much am I missing? How much are we all missing? We are so caught up in ourselves, in our unimportant worlds, that we miss too much.
Living in New York makes that a very real realization.
There is so much in New York, and we do our best to avoid it all.
There are so many humans here that we forget how to be one.
Christopher came across challenges that always had to do with other people. He was happy with himself, he didn’t see anything wrong with him. He knew how to make himself happy, and what he wanted to do with his life, which is more than most adults can say.
His challenges were with people who were in too much of a rush. People who saw difference and couldn’t understand it, and therefore tried to avoid it. People who wanted to help him, but failed to realize that to help someone, you don’t do what you want, you do what they want.
This story is more than a good book, more than a mind-blowing work of art. It is a life lesson for all of us. This world is a scary, scary place, and so many of us are trying to create islands for ourselves, isolating everyone else; removing differences and avoiding those who make us feel like we need to work harder or change ourselves.
This story reminds me that it isn’t the way to go.
Avoiding other people is just another way to avoid ourselves, it gives us a way to pretend that we aren’t like each other, that we don’t face the same challenges or have the same flaws.
They may express themselves differently, but they’re all there.
During the show, questions built up in my head, and I imagined getting the chance to ask the actor all of them.
Then I did, a few minutes after the show, he was standing in front of me. All I did was dumbly hand him my playbill with a huge smile, at a loss for words. This man was a human. While he is more talented that I’ll ever be in thousands of ways, he was human, suddenly touchable, suddenly so reachable. In a moment, as he scribbled his name on my playbill, he transformed from Christopher to Tyler. Suddenly, he was just another human that I might have sat across from on the train, eyes to be avoided, a connection to be ignored.
I panicked in that moment, I couldn’t say my words, I couldn’t ask my questions- my questions were for Christopher, I realized, and he doesn’t actually exist.
Except that he does.
The character in the story who found a dead dog and faced countless challenges on his journey to find the killer may not breathe life-giving breaths. He may only live on the pages of a book, or through Tyler and any other actors who have given him life.
But he actually exists in all of us. We see him everywhere. Every child, autistic or not, has a Christopher inside of him. I have a Christopher.
I spend my days avoiding eye-contact, hoping that I can somehow disappear into walls when I see people I don’t want to talk to, avoid social interactions, and dream of an island that is all my own. Like Christopher.
Unlike Christopher, I fail to see the goodness in truly good people, I fail to see the intricacies and science of everything in life, I focus on small details instead of seeing big pictures.
I am less determined to eat a healthy breakfast than Christopher was to get to London. My obstacles are small in comparison to what he dealt with on that trip. I know because this magnificent show took me inside his head, made me feel claustrophobic and scared and overwhelmed. I never realized how much was going on around me, and how much there was to see.
As the stage walls moved in on Christopher, I felt myself holding my breath, pushing my feet into the ground as if I could push the wall further away from him.
I realized that while I sit in my $30 cheap seats, I couldn’t help Christopher with the stage walls pushing him toward the train tracks; but I could help the other Christophers. I could help myself.
It all starts with recognizing that there is a wall pushing me or you somewhere we don’t want to go. Then holding out my hand, or taking a hand, depending on what is needed in the situation, and shouldering the load.
I like to think I can get through my challenges alone. Somehow, the burden seems lighter if I don’t have to instruct others on how to carry it with me.
Christopher taught me that while being alone may seem ideal, in the really tough moments there are people who love you who want to help. Let them help you. Help others. Get into the minds of the people around you, look at what they need, and give it to them. Speak in their language. Don’t push your ideas onto others, and don’t punish yourself for being who you are.
This Broadway show is mesmerizing, eye-opening, and so important.
I was thrilled to be a part of it, to be in that room, connected with the hundreds of Christophers near me, connecting in unexpected ways with the Christopher on stage, being able to make the story my own and see how it was also everyone else’s.
I’m glad I went to this Broadway as uneducated as they come. I got the chance to see the story without any preconceived pretentious notions.
I got the chance to open my heart to Christopher, and his tale, and fall in love with every aspect of this show.
After the show ended, after a lot of people left, the lights went back down and Christopher came back on stage. He explained a math problem that he solved in middle of the show and couldn’t explain to the audience then. How much can we learn from people if we just slowed down a little bit? What if we didn’t always rush to our next destination, and gave people a chance?
You got me, Broadway. I have the fever.
PS. If you liked this uneducated review, I have officially started a pool, that is really empty, but really wants money. Feel free to sponsor as many of my future Broadway show tickets as you’d like.