This past weekend, The College Theatre Association (CTA) introduced a new play to the Plattsburgh State campus, “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead”, an adaption of the Peanuts characters created by Charles M Schulz.
Written by Bert V. Royal, it should be noted that, ‘Dog Sees God’ has not been authorized or approved in any manner by the Charles M, Schulz Estate or United features, and, in this case, the character names have been changed.
In “Dog Sees God,” Royal has reimagined these comic characters and brought them to life as young teenagers suffering a wide range of issues commonly experienced during adolescence.
The show begins with no light except for the spotlight on a boy sitting in front of a red dog house, next to a planted cross, and digital raining clouds on this wall overhead. The seats for the audience sat facing each other on both sides of the room.
The boy sitting in front of this dog house is CB who is writing to his pen pal that his dog has just died of rabies. Following this, CB begins questioning his friends about the existence of the afterlife and soon will begin questioning his own identity and purpose in life.
On this quest to find answers, the audience starts to see the parody of our current society and its effects on adolescents through the personalities and experiences of these “Peanuts”-inspired characters.
Van, based on the “Peanuts” character Franklin, has started smoking marijuana and CB’s best friend Matt, inspired by “Peanuts” character Linus, has begun doing cocaine. CB’s ex-girlfriend and Van’s sister, Shannon, or Lucy from the “Peanuts” comics, has been institutionalized, and best friends Marcy and Trisha, or Peppermint Patty, are heavy underage drinkers and very sexually active.
It was a night of laughs at these stereotypical but relatable personalities of “pothead” Van, gossip girls Tricia and Marcy and even crazy Shannon.
But these personalities and their experiences also provided an evening of intense, troubling themes as the show develops the rifts in these characters relationships with each other and within themselves.
The actors vividly portray a wide range of problematic themes from drug and alcohol abuse to mental illness and bullying through the use of passionate acting, crude language and captivating, surrounding music and sound effects. The amount of dedication and effort into producing this show was clear as the cast effortlessly set up and switched their prop set at the transition of each scene.
What started off light and comical ended in fierce, complex emotion as the show concludes with a death of a character and the other characters coming together to form a circle around CB. The room was completely dark with the only light coming from the candle each of them were holding. Intense music was playing as each character took turns speaking as the voice of an unexpected friend providing CB with some comfort and solace.
‘Dog Sees God’ and the amazing PSU cast and staff that brought it to life force its viewers to face the reality of the issues these characters struggle with.
“We don’t think that these things happen to children,” said Director Gabrielle Dion, a PSUC senior and theater major. “We don’t think that they experience these issues, but they do every single day. I think the choice of Royal taking those beloved comic strip characters and throwing them into this jolting world is such a strong choice because it makes audiences not able to ignore those issues.”
Dion emphasizes that ‘Dog Sees God’ also reminds its viewers to be more aware of these issues and our choice of words, as well as to be more kind as one never knows what another person may be battling.
‘Dog Sees God’, according to Dion, tells the audience what’s important today is: “learning to be more empathetic and [accepting] and all those things that we still need to work on, especially in 2018. Most importantly how to accept others especially at this young age where we’re uncomfortable with ourselves and are still trying to find our identity.”