Down, boy! Down! The producers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time announced today that the play will close on September 4, after an unusually long stint on Broadway: It will have played 800 performances at the Barrymore Theatre, making it the longest-running non-musical on Broadway since 2000’s Proof. And don’t worry, kids, the play is not being put to sleep. It’s just being sent outside the city, so it will can have more room to run and play! (A national tour is set to launch in October.)
Adapted from Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel about a teenage math whiz with behavioral challenges, Simon Stephens’s engaging play has been a great success by any measure: It earned rave reviews, won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play and recouped its $4.5 million investment in just four months.
But The Curious Incident’s longevity is what really sets it apart. Straight plays seldom have long lives anymore. The Broadway audience has shifted dramatically in the past 25 years; whereas a majority of theatergoers used to be New York locals, tourists now make up 70% of the crowd, and visitors tend to want big shows for their big bucks. The late 1970s and early 1980s yielded five plays that ran for more than 1,000 performances: Gemini, Deathtrap, Amadeus, Torch Song Trilogy and Brighton Beach Memoirs. There hasn’t been a single one since. Straight-play producers now tend to opt for a different model, bringing big stars in for brief runs.
So why has The Curious Incident stuck around so long? Perhaps because it behaves like a musical. As David Cote noted in his Time Out review, the play’s “combination of intense emotionalism and visual dazzle is captured brilliantly in Marianne Elliott’s production, awash in video projections and moving parts.” Its closest cousin is 2011’s War Horse—which also began at London’s National Theatre, and was also directed by Elliott, and which ran for 718 performances. Like War Horse, The Curious Incident is spectacular to look at, and accessible to a wide range of audiences. (Both plays were adapted from novels aimed at young adults.) And although its subject matter is often tense and grim, Stephens’s play smartly sends the audience out on a high note, thanks to an exuberant post–curtain call sequence that functions as an encore.
The 2015-16 season has already brought several excellent new plays to Broadway, notably King Charles III, Eclipsed and The Humans. (The Father, which starts previews tonight, also has strong buzz.) See such shows as early as you can, because The Curious Incident is an exception that proves the rule. For the most part, straight-play runs might as well be measured in dog years.