People lined up through the electronic sliding doors to the entrance of the Stieren Theater in the Ruth Taylor Fine Arts building, waiting to buy tickets for the play Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, written by Bert V. Royal and directed by Roberto Prestigiacomo. I was glad I made reservations through the box office. The electric hum of conversation vibrated through the crowd. When we got to our very comfortable seats (in the second row, which provided an interesting worm’s eye view of the production), we were treated to an a-capella production by a group of attractive young women dressed in black called (and I can’t quite tell if this clever or schlocky) Aca Bellas. Their rendition of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics: sublime.
I felt giddy with anticipation; this was right up my alley — a play about the Peanuts gang in the twilight of their youth. These are fixed characters who have grown up and are now in an element not their own, an element that we wouldn’t suspect them to be in. How are they going to react? I am assured by the promise of drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, death, suicide, and the search for identity (oh, and rabies — i.e. homosexuality). How could this go wrong?
In the comics-business lingo, gutters refer to the space outside of the panels of the comic. Panels descended from the rafters as the play started and CB, a little woodenly, addressed his infamous pen pal about the death of his dog. If I was more of an idiot than I already am, I would have smacked myself in the forehead and muttered, “Good Grief.” Luckily Kaitlin Riley, identified solely as “CB’s Sister” (Sally), traipsed onto the stage. Her rapport with the audience immediately set us tittering; she was acting, before we even knew, like someone who couldn’t decide who they wanted to be. And she did it well. The women, Desiree Chappelle as Van’s Sister (Lucy), Madi Goff as Marcie, and Kaityly Jones as Tricia (Peppermint Patty), were generally less self-conscious than the men, who included Robby Glass Jr. as CB, Judson Rose as Beethoven (Schroeder), Paris Taylor as Matt (Pig Pen — a touchy nickname for the current mysophobia), and Nathan Thurman as Van (Linus). But all in all, as the opening night continued, the actors became more comfortable in their skin and the play ended laudably (if a touch melodramatically, which is no fault of the actors’). And while some of the material seemed more interested in shock value (simulated sex and puking, for example), I applaud the fact that the play took up contemporary themes of sexual (and other) identity as well as the timeless values of teenage revolt. Dog Sees God — what a divine palindrome — (from the line: “They say that a dog sees God in his master”) wallows in the gutter.
On our way out, an hour and forty-five minutes later, I heard a kid (much of the audience looked to be about 12) say, “That was awesome.” I can’t say I agree with that wholeheartedly, but it is worth seeing: the good grief of the audience.
Dog Sees God
7pm Wed & Thu; 8pm Fri & Sat; 2:30pm Sun
Through Oct 11
One Trinity Pl.