BWW Reviews: DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD

You're still a good man, Charlie Brown. Even as you cross the minefield of modern adolescence. Even when dealing with loss. Even when questioning while everyone else has the answers. Even when all your friends are falling like dominoes clicking down the line. You, Charlie Brown, once the patron saint of losers, stand strong in the hormonal storm of puberty.

In DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD, Charlie and the gang, icons of adult neuroses in the guise of precocious children, are transformed into tormented teenagers teetering on the edge of disaster. There is so much baggage in this one small group, it's a miracle any of them can walk upright.

Luckily, the show is so well cast and the cast is so well stocked with talent, they are able to carry the heavy weight. Under Director Fuzz Roark's sensitive direction, the story is transformed into a modern fable of right and wrong in a wobbly world. Stage manager Ben Kinder uses the theater's small space to reimagine the land marks recognized across generations.

Roark has poured his heart into the production, sparking the creative passion of this dedicated young group of actors as they tackle the tough issues their characters face. The issues are so timely and tragic, the opportunity to join in the discussion follows each performance. Resources on bullying, homophobia, suicide and substance abuse will be available.

Burt V. Royal's unauthorized parody of "Peanuts" gets an intense and involving treatment by the Spotlighters, who feature up and coming talent with increasing effectiveness.

We know we're in for something different when the show opens with the news that CB's beloved beagle succumbed to a fit of rabies and took that little yellow bird with him. Sean Dynan is a soulful CB, perceptive and inquisitive with an unfolding maturity. He is the heart at the center and the thread that ties everything together. Dynan creates chemistry with each character and in all aspects of the story.

CB has been hanging out with Matt, the former Pigpen who used to walk blissfully around in a cloud of dust and dirt. Now, he is a sharply groomed, tightly wound bully whose twin phobias are germs and homosexuality. Dennis Binseel excels in this crucial role as the catalyst whose cruelty hides his own inner conflicts. The pair is swaggering into an emotional collision with Reed DeLisle's Beethovan. DeLisle movingly portrays an introvert struggling to assert his self and sexual identity in the wider world. Like the child Schroeder, he finds solace only in music.

The gang is all there along with their personality disorders and self-treatment through addiction. CB's sister, as Sally is now known, alters her persona the way she used to adopt philosophies. As portrayed by Parker Bailey Steven, the character remains endearing even in her current Wiccan/Goth formation. Van (Linus) loves pot the way he used to love his blanket. Adam Michael Abruzzo has the laid back charm of a surfer dude who may find his way out of the haze if he retains enough brain cells.

Melanie Glickman rocks the lunch table at school as Tricia (Peppermint Patty), the hard-drinking party girl who is popular, right? She is quite certain she knows what she is doing while we are quite certain she doesn't have a clue. April Airriona Jones is a sweet, smart Marcy, Tricia's stalwart sidekick, who joins in but remains one step removed from complete immersion.

In one scene only, Autumn Rocha almost steals the show as Van's sister, the loud-mouthed Lucy turned arsonist with a knack for humor and trouble. When CB visits her in juvenile jail, the scene is dangerously delightful, funny and painful all at once.

You will root for these lost youth even as you are exasperated by them. You will hope love wins out over prejudice even as you sense it is doomed. CB shines the light at the end of the tunnel as we see the once cautious and despondent boy evolve into a brave and open-hearted man. Happy endings are elusive, but it is inspiring to know that even we insecure blockheads can become the heroes of our own lives.

DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD plays now through June 28th at the Spotlighters, 817 Saint Paul Street. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for Seniors (ages 60+), and $16 for students and military. For more information, visit www.spotlighters.org or call 410-752-1225



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From This Author Tina Saratsiotis