Cu­ri­ous In­ci­dent star Do­heny avoids la­bels

> BY JOHN LU­CAS

The Georgia Straight - - Fringe Festival -

Daniel Do­heny doesn’t seem to have any short­age of en­ergy, which is a good thing, be­cause he’ll be need­ing a bunch of it over the next few weeks. The lo­cal ac­tor has landed the star­ring role in the Arts Club’s pro­duc­tion of Si­mon Stephens’s The Cu­ri­ous In­ci­dent of the Dog in the Night-time. Based on Mark Had­don’s 2003 novel of the same ti­tle, the play doesn’t give its lead ac­tor much in the way of down­time.

“I have to do a lot, more than I’ve had to do in any other play,” Do­heny says, call­ing the Straight en route to a re­hearsal. “I’m on-stage the en­tire time and I have a lot of lines, and it’s in a Bri­tish ac­cent, so there’s sort of a height­ened amount of at­ten­tion and fo­cus that needs to go into the dia­logue. It just goes from scene to scene to scene, and I’m spin­ning around and danc­ing and stuff. It’s crazy. But it’s pretty great.”

Do­heny is play­ing Christo­pher John Fran­cis Boone, a 15-year-old math ge­nius who takes it upon him­self to in­ves­ti­gate the mys­te­ri­ous death of a neigh­bour’s poo­dle while also un­cov­er­ing a few se­crets about his fam­ily.

Al­though it is never stated ex­plic­itly in ei­ther the play or the novel, Christo­pher is pre­sum­ably some­where on the autism spec­trum; he most likely has Asperger’s syn­drome, a no­tion sup­ported by his char­ac­ter­is­tic com­bi­na­tion of high in­tel­li­gence and re­duced abil­ity to read so­cial cues or em­pathize with other peo­ple.

“I ac­tu­ally did a lot of re­search about it,” Do­heny says. “I read lots of books about autism, and some great books writ­ten by chil­dren with autism. There are some re­ally great books out there writ­ten by autis­tic peo­ple. But the most help­ful to me is to ap­proach it and not try to think of Christo­pher as autis­tic, and not pre­judge any­thing go­ing on in his brain and just play ev­ery scene based on the dia­logue and the text.

“I don’t see the need to re­ally la­bel what he has or even put it into a box,” the ac­tor con­tin­ues. “The writ­ing is so good; as long as we do a good job of ap­proach­ing it hon­estly and do­ing what the script al­ready tells us to do, I think we can get our job done pretty well.”

It doesn’t hurt to have a liv­ing, breath­ing re­source in the form of Jake An­thony. The lo­cal per­former and autism ad­vo­cate has been brought in to ad­vise the cre­ative team—in­clud­ing direc­tor Ash­lie Cor­co­ran—as a “cul­tural cre­ative con­sul­tant”.

“He’s an ac­tor him­self, so he knows the process of do­ing a play,” says Do­heny. “He’s ba­si­cally there to an­swer any ques­tions. He’s been great to have in the room. He’s been a wealth of knowl­edge, for sure.”

As far as act­ing goes, Do­heny has been build­ing up a pretty im­pres­sive knowl­edge base him­self. The 2012 Stu­dio 58 grad­u­ate is a vet­eran of sev­eral Bard on the Beach pro­duc­tions and has landed star­ring parts in a num­ber of movies, in­clud­ing the re­cent Net­flix films Alex Strangelove and The Pack­age.

Not a bad CV for some­one who, at 27, is still youth­ful enough to con­vinc­ingly pull off a lead­ing char­ac­ter who hap­pens to be 15 years old.

“I look very young, from what I’m told, so that helps, and also it does kind of help that the char­ac­ter has a lot of trou­ble ex­press­ing him­self and deal­ing with peo­ple,” Do­heny says. “So there’s a lot of stuff al­ready writ­ten in the script: he looks down, he doesn’t make a lot of eye con­tact, he’s very shy. So I can just kind of in­habit those clues given to me in the script and then it’s good to go, it seems like I’m a 15-yearold be­cause I’m shy—and I’m al­ready an awk­ward per­son, so it’s not too hard for me to go into the body of some­one who’s awk­ward. And I usu­ally play peo­ple in high school any­way.”

The Cu­ri­ous In­ci­dent of the Dog in the Night-time,

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