The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a wonder. With pitch-perfect performances, top-notch production values, and loads of heart, this play by Simon Stephens based on the novel by Mark Haddon left me with the feeling: Yes! This is what theatre can be and do.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time premiered in London’s West End in 2013, and on Broadway in 2015, where it won five Tony awards, including Best Play.

Mark Pirolo, in his 40th production for Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, has directed the show, which runs approximately two hours and 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission and is recommended for ages 12 and over. This Robot Dreams, aka Tab May, designed the set, with lighting design by Jason Irons. Tara Raczenski designed the costumes, and Taylor Hargrove is the stage manager.

Clever projections on two 12-paned screens illustrate scene changes – from the dramatic night sky to the chaos of crowded train stations to homey wallpaper.

The show draws us into the world of Christopher Boone, a neurodivergent 15-year-old math genius who always tells the truth, and who, by extension, wants to know the truth. So, of course, when his next-door neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is found dead by pitchfork (or “garden fork,” as the Brits apparently say), Christopher sets out to discover whodunnit.

Christopher spends much of his time with his head in the clouds, literally. Longing to be an astronaut, Christopher loves the night sky, the Milky Way, black holes – and his pet rat, Toby, who helps bring him down to Earth. His unique outlook on life brings joy and sorrow to those in his orbit.

The action of the play forces Christopher out of his tenuous comfort zone in small-town Swindon, England, and onto a potentially perilous trip to London. In the tradition of the classic hero’s journey, Christopher responds to the call to adventure.

Also in that tradition, allies and enemies accompany him along the way, affecting and being affected by him. The ensemble acts together as a kind of a startling Greek chorus and individually as aids or hindrances in Christopher’s efforts to navigate a world that is not always kind to the neurodivergent.

Jackson Colo played Christopher briskly and emphatically. Christopher’s sense of certainty and brisk intelligence are alarming. Truth-tellers always upset the applecart, and Christopher is no exception. Using his agile body and voice, Jackson fully inhabited the character. Prepare yourself: He shrieks when his space is invaded, he strikes back when he feels threatened. His boundaries are clear.

First among Christopher’s allies is his widowed father Ed, played by Jon Furr. Ed runs a heating maintenance and boiler repair business, and keeps a toolbox in the wardrobe, ready to make all repairs on his and Christopher’s small home.

With his sturdy and steady affect, Furr showed Ed’s love for and frustration with Christopher in an impressive emotional arsenal that ranged from wounded and tender to frighteningly violent. Their relationship anchors Christopher even when their discrete points of view are seemingly opposed.

Siobhan (Janice Lovett), Christopher’s teacher, is another comforting ally for Christopher. When she sees how upset he is by the dog’s death and how determined to detect his “murderer,” Siobhan gives Christopher a notebook in which to record his progress. Lovett brought an even-tempered motherly quality to the character. She played Siobhan as unflappable and always in Christopher’s corner.

Judy, Christopher’s mother, is supposed to have died two years before the action of the play begins – but there’s a twist. Played by Becki West, Judy is dreamy and self-involved, even a little emotionally brittle. West also brought Judy’s vulnerable humanity into view.

The rest of the ensemble was superb, including Sarah Jedrey, Don Gunther, and Lisa Steele. Ray Collins was really funny as a policeman who nabs Christopher on the train to London. Matthew Cravey was suitably shlumpy and threatening as Roger Shears, Judy’s “friend.” Nancy Frye was charming as Mrs. Alexander, an older lady in Swindon who tries to take Christopher under her wing.

This kind of theatrical experience doesn’t come around to community theatres that often. The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time delivered an effective, perception-altering evening that reminds us that it’s OK to be different, and that those who are often have something surprising and wondrous to offer the world.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time continues through Sunday, April 2. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.