Sunday, November 14, 2010

- Theater Review - Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

The Corn Stock Winter Playhouse continues its current season with "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead".

This play debuted at the 2004 New York Fringe Festival and was the hit of that year.  It is not often performed since, so I was thrilled to find it in Corn Stock's line-up.

The hilarious premise of the play is based on the trials and tribulations of the Peanuts gang during their teenage years; although the names are (slightly) changed to protect the innocent (from lawsuits from the Charles Schulz estate?). 
Charlie Brown is simply C.B., Linus is Van, etc.

It seems the gang has turned out a little differently than we might have imagined.

The play opens with Charlie and his sister at the funeral for Charlie's dog.  Good ol' Snoopy contracted rabies and killed Woodstock before being "put down".
Sally is a Wiccan goth flake.  Linus is a tweaked out pothead, who smoked his blanket long ago.  Peppermint Patty and Marcie are loose party girls.  Schroeder is perceived as gay and constantly bullied by Pig Pen who is now a germaphobe as well as a homophobe known as Matt. Lucy is incarcerated in a sanitarium after setting fire to the Little Red-Headed Girl's red hair.

As Charlie seeks spiritual answers in regards to Snoopy's death, he stumbles onto some unexpected answers to his own sexual identity.

I was pleased to find Jeremy Behrens in the lead role as Charlie Brown.  Mr. Behrens has lit up the Hartmann Center stage over the last few years, most recently as the demented dentist in Bradley's production of "Little Shop of Horrors". 
In this role he is given the chance to expand his dramatic chops and he indeed rises to the occasion.

Alex Larson as the stoner Van Pelt is the comedic favorite, garnering the biggest audience laughs.  Megan Runyard and Bridgette Richard are equally funny in the roles of Marcie and Patty respectively.  Ms. Runyard's facial expressions will make you smile before she speaks a line.

Melissa Grimson turns in a great performance as Charlie's sister Sally.  This character has a bit more depth that some of the others, as Sally changes from flakiness to self-assured maturity.  Her performance piece within the play emphasises this metamorphosis.

Michael David Luchies is convincingly mean as the villain of the piece.  Landen Zumwalt is effective as a young gay man struggling with his sexuality and the pressures of being bullied.  And as Schroeder ought to, he plays a mean piano.

While Heather Dyer is fine in her portrayal as Lucy, the character is somewhat problematic.  She does not quite fit into or contribute to the underlying themes of the play....nothing against Ms. Dyer's performance, but perhaps a flaw in the play itself.

The truly wonderful thing about this play is how it so perfectly straddles the line between comedy and drama.  There are plenty of funny situations full of laughter.  At the same time, its themes of coming out and of gay bullying are seriously examined; and given current headlines, they are particularly timely.

The production is dedicated to The Trevor Project, a nationwide not-for-profit supporting acceptance of GLBTQ youth that aids in crisis and suicide prevention.  Learn more about the organization here.

And please see this delightful play at the theater in upper Bradley Park now through November 20th. 
Call the box office at 676-2196.

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