BWW Review: PEANUTS Gang Reaches Puberty
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead
Written by Bert V. Royal; Director/Scenic Designer, Lizette M. Morris; Director/Costume Coordinator, Mikey DiLoreto; Assistant Director/Sound Designer, Deirdre Benson; Production Stage Manager/Board Operator, Samantha MacArthur; Lighting Designer, Greg Jutkiewicz
CAST: Michael Underhill, Kiki Samko, Joey C. Pelletier, Nick Miller, Mikey DiLoreto, Audrey Lynn Sylvia, Lizette M. Morris, Lesley Anne Moreau
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead imagines the Peanuts gang as modern day adolescents, confronting the issues of sex, drugs, sexual identity, bullying, and suicide with no more adult supervision than they had as kids in the comic strip. Charlie Brown, now known simply as CB, has friends, but has lost his faithful companion Snoopy, causing him to question what happens after we die and re-evaluate the way he lives his life.
After burying Snoopy, CB polls his friends one by one in search of a belief that he can accept. None of them is in a position to help much as they are respectively trying out different personalities (Sally), in a constant haze of pot smoke (Van, aka Linus), chugging milk laced with liquor (Marcy and Tricia, aka Peppermint Patty), or languishing in a mental institution (Van's sister Lucy). CB rekindles his friendship with Beethoven, aka Schroeder, and finds his purpose when he defends him from the group's bullying. That doesn't sit well with the resident jock Matt, who used to be Pig Pen, and his reaction sets off an unfortunate chain of events.
Dog Sees God has not been authorized or approved by the Charles M. Schultz Estate or United Features Syndicate and it is no surprise. Other than the basic characters, a snippet of music from the television cartoons, and the "whaa whaa whaa" muted trombone sound used to emulate a teacher's voice, there are few similarities to the beloved members of the gang. None of them is very likable or sympathetic, although you can kind of feel sorry for Beethoven. He suffers for his art and sensitivity, becoming the martyr of the story and driving home the anti-bullying theme.
CB isn't a loser anymore, but he comes across like a whiner instead, even when he is trying to be the standup guy on Beethoven's behalf. Marcy and Tricia are "mean girls" who have replaced Lucy as the one to be feared in the school, while the latter seems content to remain in custody rather than show remorse for burning the curls on the head of the little red-haired girl. In a total reversal from his formerly calm, albeit dust-swirling, demeanor, Matt is an explosive germophobe. Van has evolved into a Buddhist philosopher, but he's a little wacky because he smoked his blanket. Apparently having moved on from her crush on him, Sally has gone goth and is both a practicing Wiccan and a performance artist.
Lizette M. Morris wears three hats for the Happy Medium Theatre's production. She directs, plays Lucy, and is the Scenic Designer. She uses large sheets oF Brown paper to hide signs on the upstage brick wall; each introduces a scene when the paper is peeled away. The few important set pieces include a big red dog house (designed by Bruce DiLoreto), a piano, Van's wall of inspiration, and some school lockers and a cafeteria table. Mikey DiLoreto is the Costume Coordinator, directs the scene where CB visits Lucy, and plays Van as a mellow stoner.
Michael Underhill is solid in the challenging and changing role of CB. He maneuvers a variety of emotional swings and captures the character's inherent loneliness. Kiki Samko mixes brattiness, childish wonder, righteous indignation, and vulnerability as CB's sister. Beethoven's vulnerability is well-played by Joey C. Pelletier and he authentically conveys the conflicted feelings he has for CB. Nick Miller (Matt), Audrey Lynn Sylvia (Tricia), and Lesley Anne Moreau (Marcy) are earnest, if one-note, in their portrayals.
The concept of revisiting the Peanuts kids in their teenage years is clever and the development of their personalities hits the mark in a few cases. However, the playwright bites off more than we can swallow by touching upon a vast array of stereotypical adolescent issues. Throwing everything at the wall to see what will stick diminishes the impact that just a few carefully selected themes might have, if not lost in the shuffle. Dog Sees God begins with CB's search for meaning, but by the time he gets some comfort and answers in the end, I forgot the question.
Following each performance of DOG SEES GOD, the cast will be collecting donations to support the IT GETS BETTER PROJECT. For more information, please visit www.itgetsbetter.org