Bert V. Royal’s Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead is a strange little play, one that takes a look at the iconic Peanuts characters years later, when they’re well into adolescence and dabbling in sexual experimentation, depression, mental illness, and substance abuse. And, who better to put on a teen-themed play than the teen-run One Song Productions?
The show begins with a darkly funny opening monologue, one delivered by CB (Ben Goldstein)—the initials shouldn’t be hard to decipher for anyone who has read a Peanuts comic strip. Viewers find that CB’s beloved dog has died, and not only has he died, but he has contracted rabies and brutally mangled a cute, little yellow bird who was once his pal. Goldstein delivers the monologue emphatically, spinning a dark analysis on innocence lost.
While CB is busy wrestling with the loss of his dog and writing agonizingly heartfelt letters to his penpal, viewers get to watch the personal turmoil CB’s friends are experiencing. His nameless sister (Julia Perkins) wafts from identity to identity in a desperate attempt to try and find herself, and Perkins brings a sarcastic, biting energy to the character, as well as much-needed moments of sweetness.
Viewers are also introduced to Van (Tommy Billman), who has traded his security blanket for a blunt and a penchant for Buddhism; a much picked-on Beethoven (Jones Bell), who hides his sorrows in piano sonatas; an obsessively clean and increasingly angry Matt (Ethan Fox), who despises his childhood nickname of “Pigpen;” and best buds, Marcy (Nina Muller) and Tricia (Martine Witt), whose main concerns are getting as wasted as possible between classes.
Far into the play, after an ill-begotten love affair has the characters in even more of an upheaval than before, viewers are introduced to Van’s sister (Lizzy Judd), who is locked up in a mental ward for setting a little red-haired girl’s hair on fire. Judd’s delivery of the character’s biting, insightful, and darkly humorous lines is one of the highlights of the show. Also notable is Fox’s energetic rendition of Matt; Fox brings laughter and intensity to each scene he is in—sometimes lightening the moment and sometimes taking it to a much, much darker place.
Young director Aaron Josephs has chosen strong actors for this production, a must given the bare, almost non-existent set. Among the few things to look at on stage are movable brick partitions, which are reminiscent of Charles Schulz’s comic strip, and, at the end, the iconic red doghouse fans of the strip will remember well. The barren stage, however, makes the bleak, sullen world of these characters all the more real.
While it would be unfair to say that Dog Sees God ends on a happy note, it does end with a decent sense of closure and perhaps a tinge of hopefulness for these young characters. The ending also poses some interesting commentary on how we all must come to terms with our existence and with our status as human beings, a commentary that this production understands and manifests surprisingly well.
DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD (One Song Productions, March 6-8 at Common Ground Theatre in Durham, NC).
SHOW: http://www.cgtheatre.com/events and https://www.facebook.com/events/1391265924475819/.
PRESENTER: https://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Song-Productions/136779861220, https://twitter.com/onesongtheatre, and http://www.1songproductions.weebly.com/.
VENUE: http://www.cgtheatre.com/events and https://www.facebook.com/cgtheatre.
NOTE: This show was rated PG-13 (due to drug use, suicide, eating disorders, teen violence, and language).
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (2004 “unauthorized parody” of the “Peanuts” comic strip): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3754 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_Sees_God:_Confessions_of_a_Teenage_Blockhead (Wikipedia).
Bert V. Royal (Aurora, CO playwright and screenwriter): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_V._Royal (Wikipedia).
Aaron Josephs (Chapel Hill, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/aaron.josephs1 (Facebook page).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.