Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead
words: Jim Wills
This play, written in 2004 by Bert V. Royal, is one of the best teenage drama stories of it’s time. Not because it breaks any new ground in the life of a teenager, but because it presents these topics so brilliantly, and with characters that most of us are very familiar, in fact we grew up with them.
The play is about the tormented teenage life of the main Peanuts comics characters created by Charles Shultz. It is an unauthorized parody, that is to say that it is not sanctioned by Shultz & Co., nor does it stick with the exact characterization of each of the Peanuts gang. Rather, they have grown up and become pretty much every teenage stereotype that exists. The blockhead is still there, but he is now a little cooler. We also have a stoner, homosexual, sluts, a jock, and a goth Sally, though she is only known as CB’s Sister. Royal changed the names of the gang, whether by artistic license or to avoid copyright infringement, and added about 10 years to their lives. But, he allowed them to retain just enough of the 8-year-old selves that we remember in the comics.
The script is superbly written and provides a wealth of great material, dealing with death and loss, sexual and physical abuse, drugs, alcohol, bullying and even redemption. Without getting into the gory details it should be enough to just say, “Go see it.” And if you’ve seen this play performed before, go see it again at the Bug Theatre.
Expertly directed by Deb Flomberg, The Equinox Theatre Company’s Dog Sees Dog has absolutely perfect casting. The somewhat bumbling Mathew Davis as CB seems almost lost in his lines throughout most of the show, until you remember that good olé’ Chuck was the original blockhead and Davis’s version is the cartoon come to life. I both loved and despised Sean Verdu as Matt. His portrayal of the boy who transformed into a germophobe was fantastic! Making the script it his own, Verdu’s Matt becomes the character we all love to hate.
While all the actors excelled in their roles, two of my favorites were Janessa O’Fallon and Jane
Simonds in their portrayal of popular cheerleader types Tricia and Marcy. Totally into themselves, hating on other girls, and kind of slutty sums up the teenage versions of these best friends.
Then, the lights come up with Van’s Sister on stage and all of the rest of the cast falls away. With only one scene to call her own, Rachel Graham absolutely steals the show. Her performance is so powerfully funny and tragic; you can’t help but love every aspect of this tortured teen character. And she is still wearing that same blue dress…
The women really do own this show. I loved CB’s Sister’s monologue – “Drama”, though with heavy competition from Tricia, Marcy AND Van’s Sister, actress Tara Rose Kelso may have to let even more go in successive performances, but, her final collapse is almost Oscar worthy!
Royal wrote his script with dozens of nods to the original Peanuts gang and this cast smartly added a few more. Remember how Lucy (Van’s Sister) used to always pull the ball away from Charlie Brown?
Throughout this tragic story there are lots of laughs too. Alexander Evert’s role of Van as a stoner/Buddhist makes it all the funnier and more poignant because we live in Colorado. And there is the touching and sensitive portrayal of Beethoven by Logan Hurd. We see the waves of emotion; the confusion, the pain and even the love repeatedly pass across Hurd’s face throughout his performance like the undulating notes of Chopin’s Revolutionary Étude.
Dog Sees God at the Bug Theatre is an outstanding performance of one of the most tragically funny teenage dramas of the past decade.
Show times are Fri and Sat now through December 5th.
Buy Tickets online:
Or call the box office: 720-984-0781
3654 Navajo Street
Denver, CO 80211
(images courtesy Equinox Theatre Company)