Wednesday , February 21 2024
Bert V. Royal's spin on the Peanuts characters is revived in an energetic, entertaining production.

Theater Review (LA): Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

Imagine the Peanuts gang—now in high school—with their share of high school problems. Charlie Brown (now called CB) is more confused about life than ever, having had Snoopy put to sleep after his beloved beagle was infected with rabies. CB’s sister (Sally) constantly changes personalities in her search for an identity, and is currently a Wiccan performance artist. Van (aka Linus) has turned to marijuana as his crutch after the destruction of his beloved blanket, and Matt (Pig Pen) has become a cleanliness-obsessed, violent homophobe.

Van’s sister (Lucy) is incarcerated in the Daisy Hill Mental Hospital, the result of having jealously set the Little Red-Haired Girl’s hair on fire. Peppermint Patty and her toadie, Marcie, have here been transformed into Tricia and Marcy, party girls who put booze in their milk at lunch and trash other students, especially the unseen “fat Frieda.” And Beethoven (Schroeder), a survivor of parental sexual abuse, is the target of the bullies at school, led by Matt.

Okay, maybe these are a bit more than mere high school problems, but such is the milieu of the characters inhabiting Bert V. Royal’s Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, now playing at the Lyric Hyperion Theatre Café in Silverlake. For copyright reasons, their names have been changed, but we know who they are. It’s been a favorite of theater troupes around the country since its off-Broadway debut in 2004, and it’s easy to see why: production costs are minimal and it seems like a fun piece to perform.

The Linden Bay Collaborative’s presentation, under the direction of Daniel Su, is a fine mounting of the piece, with uniformly good performances. Julie Bersani brings a real spark to her performance as Van’s Lithium-addled, pyromanic sister, and Nate Beals is amusing as the equally drugged-out but philosophical Van.

Whether it’s intentional or just plain luck, Mikayla Ryan Gibson really looks and sounds like the Sally from A Charlie Brown Christmas all grown up. Samantha Collichio and Caitlin Gold are fun as the perpetually drunk, slutty girlfriends. When Tricia asks Marcy if she wants a drink, she eagerly answers, “Yes, sir!”, prompting Tricia to remind her to “stop calling me that.”

Nicholas Dostal is reminiscent in appearance of a young Jake Busey, and he brings the same kind of psycho energy to his performance as Matt. Jeffrey Masters is all raw nerves as Beethoven, and Adam Hale is effective as CB, whose quest for clarity only becomes clear when he realizes he’s in love—with Beethoven.

Ironically—and perhaps fortuitously—the play’s themes echo today’s “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign. Reviewers of the original production complained about its thin storyline (and also sniped about its television-heavy cast, which included Eliza Dukshu, Ian Somerhalder and Eddie Kaye Thomas!), but I found it to be amusing and occasionally poignant, with just the right amount of references to remind us of the original characters. The language, of course, is very un-Schulzlike, but the vulgar and vivid dialogue is appropriate for contemporary high school students—and much of it is quite funny.

Dog Sees God plays at the Lyric Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles., at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Sept. 18. (323) 413-7529 or here. A portion of the proceeds benefit The Trevor Project.

Photo: Daniel Su.

About Kurt Gardner

Writer, critic and inbound marketing expert whose passion for odd culture knows no bounds.

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