Pentacle to perform an unconventional detective story

Mrs. Shears’ poodle has been stabbed with a garden fork. It’s the curious inciting incident of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” a play showing at Salem’s Pentacle Theatre starting this Friday.

With a unique storytelling perspective, dozens of cues and lots of tech, Director Debbie Neel said the play has been one of the biggest undertakings of her four-decade career with the community theater.

“I really, really feel like this is a really good show,” she said. “I have a fabulous cast and I have a creative team that has put in unbelievably countless hours.”

The play, adapted from a 2003 novel of the same name, follows a teenager named Christopher who finds the body of his neighbor’s dog, and the mystery that he unravels afterward.

It opens on Aug. 11 and runs through Sept. 2. The Pentacle Theatre is located at 324 52nd Ave. N.W.

Neel was a fan of the book, which is told from Christopher’s perspective. Though it’s not named in the book, most interpret his character as autistic, she said.

“I loved the book, it was a wonderful story and I was just fascinated by it and the way it was presented,” she said. “When I found out they’d adapted that into a play I was really curious because I wasn’t quite sure how they would do that.”

She thinks the adaptation succeeds in providing Christopher’s thoughts, and comes with intricate technical aspects that have created a “true balancing act” when it comes to actor and crew timing.

When she agreed to direct it at the Pentacle, Neel said she had a vision in her head for what it would look like, but that the ideas from the local sound and production designers made a show much better than she imagined.

“We have projections, and sound and lights,” she said. “There’s a fluidity in the way the scenes move from one to the other.”

In the Pentacle’s production, Christopher is played by actor Christopher Schoaps, who has acting experience and whose parents are longtime volunteers at the theater. He’s in his early 20s, so is several years older than the character’s age.

“He pretty much never leaves the stage,” she said. “It’s such a monster of a role that you really need to have someone who has a little more experience.”

Neel describes the play as an unconventional detective story with an unconventional detective.

“I think the story is so rich and inspirational and moving,” she said. “It’s an extraordinary play.”

Tickets range from $17 to $37, and are available online, by calling 503-485-4300 or at the box office starting 45 minutes before the show. Frontline healthcare workers, students and Oregon Trail Card holders can get half priced tickets by providing information at checkout. 

Pentacle actors rehearse “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” (Courtesy/ Pentacle Theatre)

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.