Theater Review – Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Blockhead
FAU’s Alpha Psi Omega AEB Chapter Theater Group – 08/05/12
FAU Studio One Theater – Boca Raton, FL
Good grief. So you’ve been a character in a hit newspaper serial cartoon since 1950, facing the never ending traumas and joys of childhood without ever reaching puberty. You’re forever young, forever living through a child’s eye, and forever wondering when will I ever grow up. Then one day it happens, and you finally graduate from elementary school and enter those liberating teenage years when all the magic of life really begins. Yet, is it really liberating, and is it really all that magical? For sure, there are football heroes and prom queens in every high school, but what about the rest of us? What about the 99% who occupy the lesser ranks of teeagedom but never find its holy trinity: popularity, acceptance and happiness? In other words, for the most part, what about you and me?
Well, like the rest of us, Charlie Brown and the Peanut’s gang finally grow up in Bert V. Royal’s poignant and powerful play “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.” Presented by FAU’s Alpha Epsilon Beta Chapter of the Alpha Psi Omega National Theater Honor Society, this intelligent script and skillful cast, wonderfully directed by AEB Chapter President Ryan Mahannah, exquisitely portray the dangers and foibles one faces after removing the cartoon masks of childhood. While those who ruled the upper social strata of our high school hallways did so by maintaining this masquerade, the rest of us spent untold teen-time hours struggling with our spirituality, our sexuality, and drugs. And though in real life they were just characters in a newspaper serial, when the Peanut’s gang comes to life on stage, they portray our real life problems with real dignity, real pride, and real emotion.
Led by once blockhead and now school tough-guy-wanna-be-good-guy Charlie Brown (the enigmatic Eduardo Rivera), the play opens on a multilevel minimalist stage upon whose pinnacle rests that omnipresent red dog house, but sans Snoopy who has been euthanized after contracting rabies and brutally murdering Woodstock. We find CB’s sister Sally (the aspiring and inspiring Arielle Hoffman), having just spiritually ricocheted from Wicca to Goth, attempting a Kafkaesque-like metamorphoses into a platypus. Linus (the laughably laid-back Jordan Armstrong), now named Van, had a blanket-ectomy after too many years of carrying around his lice infected comforter, and instead finds his daily solace in marijuana. Matt (the energetic, identity-burdened Kyle Barrett), the once cloud enshrouded Pig-Pen, has risen from the dust pan to be reborn as a germaphobe and homophobe. Schroeder (the gentle Alexander Salup), appropriately renamed Beethoven, endures constant bullying from CB, Matt and the rest of the gang, but chooses to remain at his piano and in the closet. Tricia (the egocentric, orgiastic Shannon Ouellette), that macho Tom-boy, most likely to be voted a play ground lesbian who we once knew as Peppermint Patty, chooses to hide her alternate lifestyle orientation behind over self-adulation, envious denouncement of others, and a closeted romance with her childhood side-kick, the self-esteemless Marcie (the ever pleasing Katelyn Elliot). And as always, the doctor is in, but this time it’s a post-abortion Lucy (the dangerously seductive Marquita Davis) who is locked away in an insane asylum for lighting the never seen Litte Red-Haired Girl’s hair on fire.
So what’s the big deal about all this? Sounds like pretty normal teenage angst issues to me? Well it is until no one but CB and Sally attend Snoopy’s funeral, Marcy throws a my-parents-are-on-vacation party complete with liquor, refer, ecstacy, and turd-burgers on the barbeque, Linus teaches Sally how to suck on a marijuana joint and his genitals, Charlie Brown kisses Schroeder, Peppermint Patty gets outed (finally!), Matt goes on a fag-bashing roid-rage, and Lucy learns in lock-up how to offer advice that’s actually worth five cents. Written large within all this mayhem and meltdown are the struggle for self-esteem, the painful truths of orientation and identity, one suicide, and a letter from beyond the grave by which to tie it all together.
Ultimately, for me, this was theater of the mind’s eye turned inward to reveal one’s own truths and tribulations that marked and, at times, marred the metamorphosis into adulthood. Portrayed marvelously by a talented and energetic ensemble cast, with great direction evident by the underlying flow and timbre of the action, I found that as individuals the actors each bonded with, and thereby brought their separate characters to life, as a group they interacted with clarity and grace to bring these poignant issues out into the open, and as a performance they gave pride and dignity to all sides and situations so that in the end, while nothing was black and white, simple kindness remained the ultimate trump card. So kudos to Ryan and the rest of the gang, as I laughed, cried, and was made to re-appreciate the intimate and endless struggles of our lives which are anything but peanuts.
Be sure to catch their next upcoming performance when Alpha Psi Omega presents Lee Blessing’s “Down The Road,” directed by Shannon Ouellette, from August 9th through the 12th at FAU’s Studio 2 Theater. For free tickets email FAUStudioTwo@gmail.com.