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Play Dog Sees God gives gripping portrayal of teenage struggles
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, the new play by the Revelstoke Theatre Company, comes with a disclaimer for frequent coarse language and mature subject matter. Having seen the first act of the two-act play, I can say the warning is warranted, but it's no worse than modern Hollywood teen comedies like American Pie and Super Bad.
The play, written by Bert Royal, is an "unauthorized parody" that shows the characters from Charles Schultz's Peanuts comic strip as teenagers. They smoke cigarettes and marijuana, they drink, they pepper their language with expletives and they talk about sex and explore their sexuality.
The play opens with Charlie Brown (Jordan Walsh) and his sister Sally (Felicia Van Leur) – I mean CB and his unnamed sister – holding a funeral for his dead beagle (possibly Snoopy), who contracted rabies, went mad, killed a little yellow bird (possibly Woodstock), and tried to bite CB. As a result, he was put down.
At the funeral, CB's sister makes fun of him for holding a funeral for his dog, and inviting his friends to it.
"He was a dog, Charles. They shit on the ground and lick themselves. Ceremony is probably not key here," she yells at him. "He was a *beep* dog.
"Well he was my *beep* dog," retorts CB. "So *beep* you."
That's the type of language you can expect in Dog Sees God. The subject matter is even darker.
In this new world, CB wears his familiar yellow t-shirt with the jagged black line at the bottom. His sister is a chameleon, changing identities from day-to-day. In the opening scene, she's dressed like the "bride of Frankenstein," to quote CB, and later she looks like Barbie.
Justin Smith plays Van (aka Linus) in the play, a pothead who's dabbling in Buddhism. We learn that CB recently burned Van's treasured blanket. In turn, Linus took the ashes and smoked them in a joint — a stunt that would make Keith Richards proud.
Christopher Fusick plays Matt, aka Pig Pen. He's vulgar, obsessed with sex and is now a germaphobe.
Beethoven, aka Schroeder is played by Benjamin Menzies. He's still a piano prodigy, but his troubled youth (his dad is in jail for a disturbing crime) has turned him into a recluse, tormented and bullied by his classmates, who accuse him of being gay.
Tricia (aka Peppermint Patty) is played by Hailey Christie-Hoyle. She is the school slut - a dim-witted, consommate bitch who is as crude as Matt, and mercilessly makes fun of a fatter classmate. Her sidekick is Marcy (aka Marcie), played by Danielle Foisy. The two have great fun together in a scene where they spike their milk containers with booze and get drunk.
Also joining the cast is Ana Pollo as Van's sister, aka Lucy.
Throughout all this, CB mourns his dog and ponders life and death. The first act culminates in a powerful scene where Linus opens up to CB about how he's treated and the two have a bonding moment.
In the second act, which I haven't seen, everything comes to a head at a party at Marcie's house. According to a plot synopsis, the play delves into even darker areas.
Dog Sees God was written by Bert Royal. It's been performed to acclaim in major cities around the world and won the Excellence Award for the Best Overall Production at the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival.
Martin Ralph, who directed the play along with Anna Fin and Darren McKay, chose the controversial script after being shown it by McKay. Ralph called it, "Remarkably honest, jaw-droppingly shocking and yet wonderful and masterfully written," he said. "Unapologetic, raw, funny, harsh, unbridled, passionate, affectionate, confused and real."
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead is being performed at McGregor's in the Powder Springs Hotel on May 16, 17, 20, 21, 22 and 23. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at the Powder Springs, or online at www.revelstoketheatrecompany.org.