Most the characters in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" will be indelibly burned into your memory, each bearing the face of its actor in the Hackmatack Playhouse production. This is a beautifully written, humorous and touching drama, poignantly brought to life by a blessed cast and a fine director.

"Curious Incident" is written by Simon Stephens, based on an eponymous novel by Mark Haddon. It is narrated by the protagonist Christopher Boone, a 15-year old math savant, likely on the autism spectrum, and Siobhan his school teacher, and mentor.

Christopher's differences include being unable to tolerate human touch, and the stimulus of loud sounds or too many people, and he has difficulty looking people in the eye.

Here's a no-spoiler, sketch synopsis. Hopefully it's enough to be appealing, because the play certainly is – in spades – performance- and production-wise.

It begins with Mrs. Shear, the next-door neighbor, finding Christopher standing near her dog, who has been killed with a pitchfork. When the responding officer grabs Christopher to take him in for questioning, the boy panics and hits the policeman.

Ed Boone, his dad, a widower, arrives, and sets things straight. The father speaks to the authorities, explains the situation and his son is released with only a warning for striking the officer.

Christopher decides that the dog's death is murder, and plans to find its killer.

His farther forbids him to investigate and question neighbors. He does anyway much to the upset of Mrs. Shear, whose husband has left her and was once a good friend to the family, after Mrs. Boone's death.

Christopher is unable to lie, his mind doesn't work that way. It doesn't work in many ways the average one does. Both these qualities and others guide this young man as he struggles to find answers, not only to the dog's death, but to other mysteries and challenges that come up along the way. The answers sussed are harsh and unexpected, and dramatically alter Christopher's life. In response, he takes on a harrowing experience.

In the end, all the challenges leave Christopher a changed man, and a stronger one.

No amount of stellar performances by others could save this show without a perfect Christopher, which Colin Prato is. Prato steals the show with a flawless depiction of a character that is on stage throughout the play – so, hey, fair enough.

It's hard to imagine Prato as anyone but this brilliant, differently-challenged human he brings to life, who is largely confused by the world he inhabits, a world often at odds with his way of thinking and needs.

Prato's verbal delivery is impeccable; his physical posture and animation, authentic. His facial expressions underscore the mind at work. It is easy to get lost in this story, but better yet is watching this young performer so thoroughly create a complex, frustrating and endearing character.

Were that all this show had to offer, it would be worth the seat. But there is so much more – the other performers, principal to ensemble, and the set and direction.

There are reasons to not be fond of either parent at times, but both script and actor bring you to a place of understanding and empathy, and perhaps concern and caring.

Don Goettler as Ed, Christopher's dad, does what he always does, and nails the role.

Ed is battling his own confusions and coiled emotions. He's distracted, absent at times, but clearly loves his son, who is often challenging. Goettler is all Ed should be, a jumble of emotions – fear, anger, pain, and confusion – covered with a light varnish of "adulting."

Judy, the mother, is equally lost. Memories tell us she was never sure how to handle her son, was even disturbed or embarrassed by his behavior. But here again, with all the social strikes against her, Monique Foote fleshes out Judy, and gives us a sympathetic, human struggling to grow. A person can be lost in the complexity of their own make-up, fears and misunderstanding, and still rise up motivated by love. Foote gives a spot-on delivery of a difficult role.

Jess Miller is Siobhan. She just is. Miller conveys such an ease, warmth, love and understanding of her special charge, you completely understand his trust in her. Here's the steady ship in his life. Miller creates a clear guide and honest haven.

The entire ensemble brings what's needed to keep this play on a level of excellence: Allie Wing, Michael Coppola, Brendan Roque, Arthur Rosbury-Yoder, Katie Juster and Sally Nutt.

Director Danielle Howard has a clear vision and strong understanding of this piece. She creates wonderful characters, and stages the piece beautifully.

Howard employs numerous, very effective conceits and techniques (including smart projection by Bretton Reis) to pull the audience into Christopher's world; into the unique workings of his mind and perception of the world around him.

The set by Dane Leeman is perfect, and appealing.

Costumes by Fran Bechtold, lighting (though diminished by the matinee's mid-day sun) by Reis, and crackling sound design by Billy Butler are all righteous supports.

Maybe you haven't heard of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." Be brave. Go. "The Curious Incident" is beauty, sadness, pain and triumph, with incredible performances, and a joy to watch.

Please, step outside the familiar and the Broadway blockbuster and into a piece of outstanding storytelling. This one will stay with you a long time to come.

Go & Do

What: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"

When: Through July 20, Wednesday through Saturday, 8 p.m.; Thursday at 2 p.m.

Where: Hackmatack Playhouse, 538 State Route 9, Berwick, Maine

Tickets: $30; seniors, $20 to $25; ages 20 and under, $15

More info: Call (207) 698-1807 or visit