Dark comedy ‘Dog Sees God’ ages Peanuts characters to teensWritten by Chase Will | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When everything they’re certain of is stripped away, the famous Peanuts gang is left “shell-shucked.”
“Dog Sees God” begins with CB, a character inspired by Charlie Brown, mourning the loss of his dog, who was put down after contracting rabies and slaughtering Woodstock. Thus begins a tale of disillusionment, transformation and the costly struggle to discover identity.
“All the Peanuts characters as we knew them had their thing. They all knew who they were, they were all very recognizable for it,” said director Ryan Albrecht. “We had Charlie Brown, who’s a good, kind, caring soul. You had Schroeder, who’s a musical creative guy. You had Lucy, who some would call bossy but who could also be called a leader. They all had very clear-cut identities, and now 10 years later they don’t know who they are anymore.”
The show deals in many heavy issues, including sexual abuse, underage sex, homophobia and suicide. Just about anything horrible you could imagine happening during adolescence takes its toll, Albrecht said. While some scenes will reduce audiences to tears, others will cause uncontrollable laughter, he said.
Josh Powell plays Van, an Amsterdam-bound character inspired by the philosophical Linus. During Van’s first scene we discover his sister and CB torched his blanket a month ago, an issue which he won’t let die.
“He’s turned to the smoking of substances, and there’s several references throughout the show, but he’s still kind of the voice of wisdom, even though it sounds like nonsensical garbage,” Powell said. “He’s a glimmer of light and hope in the show, because the first scene he’s in, it’s the first time I feel the audience will feel they’re able to laugh.”
Characters like Beethoven (inspired by Schroeder) struggle with bullying and the high cost of standing up for oneself. Beethoven’s most intimidating bully, Matt (inspired by Pig-Pen), has major issues of his own, such as a borderline-psychotic fear of germs which stems from hatred of his former nickname.
Every character is desperately seeking answers, but just as Lucy used to pull the football away from Charlie Brown, life pulls away any sense of comfort as soon as it’s found.
This is Albrecht’s debut directing a feature-length contemporary play, following previous success directing “Hamlet” twice as well as “Romeo and Juliet.”
“It’s very interesting to get to play with language everyone understands,” Albrecht said. “We get to hide things a little more because I don’t have to worry about hitting people over the head and making sure they understand what’s being said. We get to use modern phrases that really help us connect more.”
The show premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2004, and has garnered a lot of attention off-Broadway. Albrecht said one of the reasons he chose the play was his desire to direct something which hadn’t been done locally.
Although the premise of the show means it runs the risk of being “just another ‘teens going through horrible things’ show,” by utilizing famous characters like the Peanuts gang, it all hits home much harder, Albrecht said.
“Dog Sees God” plays at 8 p.m. Dec. 4-6 at 123 Court St. in Bowling Green. Tickets are $5/students $7/general.