Ever wonder what became of the beloved characters from Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” comic strip? You know, once they grew up and were faced with all of the trials and tribulations of high school? Well, you are in luck because Burt V. Royal has written an update for the beloved gang, with his beautifully moving and uproariously funny play Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.
This production is about identity, a subject that endlessly haunts many high school students. In this play, there are those who have found an identity that suits them for the time being, and those who are constantly changing identities, hoping that one eventually fits.
C.B. (Patrick M. Doneghy) enters center stage, wearing mustard yellow polo and a brown pair of cargo shorts. He is mourning the loss of another beloved character, in the form of a letter to his Pen Pal. It is this loss that starts C.B. on his quest to find out where we go when we die. This question haunts him throughout this play, and the events that unfold in the scenes to come influence his views on “life” post death.
We are introduced to the high school versions of the rest of the Peanuts gang. C.B.’s Sister (Allison S. Galen) has not lost her flare for the dramatic, and is exercising her freedom of expression in her daily wardrobe. Van (Silvano Melgar) has replaced a certain blanket with an appreciation for Buddhism and smoking weed, while Van’s Sister (Jennifer Finch) is in jail for a rather juicy crime. Meanwhile, Matt (Shawn G. Byers) is attempting to put his rather dingy past out of his friends’ minds, with a focus on his raging hormones and obsession with disinfectants. The dynamic duo of Tricia (Nicole Jacobs) and Marcy (Kat Sanchez) is alive and well, and boy have they grown up and adopted some adult behaviors. Last, but certainly not least, is the virtuoso of the ivories himself, Beethoven (Keith J. Miller), who has become a social outcast since we left him during the comic strip years.
The best aspects of this production can be found in the dynamic way the members of the cast interact. Individually, this cast is fantastic. Patrick M. Doneghy’s portrayal of C.B. never allows you to get lost in his melancholia. He gives you moments of laughter, as opposed to playing the character as emotionally static. Allison S. Galen gives a charming performance as C.B.’s Sister. Her commitment to each of her character’s identities throughout the show is impeccable. And Nicole Jacobs as Tricia and Kat Sanchez as Marcy steal the show for me. These two have natural chemistry with one another, and that chemistry draws the audience in from the second the lights come up on the two of them sitting at the lunch table together. Their comedic timing is astonishing, and the nuance that each has brought to her role makes for wonderful theatre. Jennifer Finch as Van’s Sister, although she is only in one scene, delivers a beautifully layered performance – equal parts tortured teen and witty banter.
William D. Parker has done a wonderful job directing this capable cast. More often than not, shows with adults playing teenagers are melodramatic. This show has a tremendous amount of heart, and these characters are more than high school stereotypes.
The design team has the audience thinking non-stop, from the pre-show music, which is a modern arrangement of the opening titles from the Peanuts cartoons, to the zigzagged pattern on one of C.B.’s textbooks. These seemingly minute details mirror Bert V. Royal’s attention to detail in the script perfectly.
What will happen when the paths of these childhood best friends collide in a high-school tale of alcohol, drugs, sexual orientation crisis, and suicide? Find out for yourselves at Redrum at Fort Fringe. This production will pull at your heartstrings and make you laugh until you cry.