Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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Dog Sees God | Peanuts characters reimagined as dysfunctional teenagers

Dog Sees God takes Peanuts characters from innocent kids to dysfunctional teenagers

The UMKC Theatre Department performed the play Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead by Bert V. Royal, directed by Stephanie Roberts, last week at the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center.

This comedic tragedy looks into the lives of Charles M. Schulz’s well-known Peanuts characters, reimagined as dysfunctional teenagers trying to figure out who they are.  The main character, CB (Steven Miles), questions the afterlife when his beloved dog dies from rabies.

The audience immediately gets a sense for the theme of the play as CB comically grapples with this serious and morbid event. From there, we are swept into the world of high school drama with stereotypical characters, such as the macho boy s and the mean girls, dealing with very real and relevant problems.

We see the characters struggle with sex, drugs, bullying, identity, sexuality and even death, all the while referencing original Peanuts characters and the letting go of their childhood innocence. 

The show never references its source material directly, leaving the audience to make those connections for themselves. Van (Malcolm Gibbs), CB’s best friend, has turned into a stoner and recalls when CB burned his favorite blanket. He tells CB that he smoked the blanket’s ashes.

“Now my blanket and I are like, one forever,” he says as he takes a big puff.

Throughout the play, there is a constant contrast between childlike innocence and real-life messiness. We see the characters evolve as they try to better understand themselves and others. When CB’s superficial friends neglect to provide any comfort for the loss of his dog, he turns to an old friend, Beethoven (Frederick Rivera), who has since become the target of bullying.

Even though his other friends reject Beethoven, CB confides in him and they develop a romantic relationship. CB realizes that being different makes people confused and sometimes angry. This play shines a light on the nature of bullying. The scene of Matt (Brandon Gibson) and the macho bully beating up Beethoven is extremely vivid and shocking for the audience. Audible gasps could be heard as Beethoven’s head is slammed into the piano.

While this play deals with some important issues and keeps the audience’s attention, some moments feel cheesy. Keeping to such stereotypical high school characters can lead to predictable lines. Van depicts a typical stoner and his character remains relatively flat throughout the course of the show, besides an occasional one-liner meant for comedic relief.

There is an overall redemptive and uplifting message at the end of the play. Despite the struggles of the average high school student, the characters are motivated to keep going.

At the end CB reads a letter from his pen pal and he is reminded that “ it’s okay to be different” and to “never stop asking questions.”

 

jlm5y3@mail.umkc.edu

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