‘Dog Sees God’ offers an original take on an old tale
I have had the privilege of attending a variety of productions from both the University of San Diego undergraduate theatre department and graduate theatre department along with student productions and others that were advised by USD faculty. However, none of them prepared me for the emotional rollercoaster that is “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.”
Produced as an entirely student-run production and directed by USD senior Sophie Wood, “Dog Sees God” is a dark comedy and parody of the Peanuts characters reimagined as teenagers who go through a variety of issues that many teenagers face including drug use, suicide, eating disorders, teen violence, rebellion, sexual relations and identity. Each of the characters in this retelling have elements of their original characters as children, be it their personality, clothing, or behaviors. While this is a parody of the original story, it is unauthorized in that the playwright, Bert V. Royal, reimagined these characters as sort of a fanfiction version of the original characters.
Held in the Vassiliadis Family Black Box in Camino Hall, the set had a simple design, but represented the setting well. It brought the audience into the world of high school years. The costuming was very modern in that all of the characters entered the stage in the first scene on their phones, signifying their age group. Each character also had an element in one or more of their costumes that eventually revealed which Peanuts character they were representing.
The show begins with a dramatic scene between the main character CB (Charlie Brown), played by sophomore Dante Enriquez, and his sister (Sally), played by sophomore Meg Stoll Tron, attending their dog’s (Snoopy’s) funeral, revealing that he gets rabies and eventually is euthanized. Both of the actors bring lightness to the otherwise depressing first scene.
For the rest of the show, Enriquez courageously tackles each of the scenes head on as he switches between subtle humor and drama, which highlights his quest for his true self in the same manner that Charlie Brown would have done. Tron is captivating as an identity-confused teenager who longs to be accepted by Beethoven, who is annoyed by her childish advances.
The show continues with short scenes introducing all of the characters and their relationship to CB. Tricia and Marcy (Peppermint Patty and Marcy), played by Veronica Sanchez and Kate Morton respectively, are delightful as gossipy, boy-obsessed, popular girls that bring much-needed comic relief to some of the show’s darker scenes.
Matt (Pigpen) now is a pathological germaphobe who is also homophobic and terrorizes Beethoven (Shroeder) mercilessly. CJ Black delivers the role of Matt as CB’s best friend and fellow football player. He had perfect timing and an extremely believable performance as the sex-crazed and violent jock who uses his masculinity to perhaps hide his true desires.
Van (Linus), played by sophomore Devin Hampton, delivers the perfect performance as a Rastafarian version of the original little boy who would not leave his blanket. In his initial conversation with CB, he reveals that his sister (Lucy) has gone somewhere and that he misses her. The role of Van’s sister is played by senior Sammy Bauman-Martin, who delivers a truly enjoyable performance as a now teenage pyromaniac who is incarcerated for setting the Little Redhaired Girl’s hair on fire. Bauman-Martin’s performance is delivered with the same wicked wit and sass that Lucy herself would have.
Freshman Derl Clausen makes his debut as Beethoven, an outcast who is made fun of by all of his ex-friends and classmates for potentially being gay and being reclusive into his music. Clausen performs this role with extreme bravery and professionalism that is usually only seen in veteran actors.
While I must give credit to Royal himself for writing such a relatable and impactful show, the young student actors truly shined in each of their roles. The interactions between the characters were very strong, which is a credit to the cast’s performance as a whole. As director, Wood truly created an impactful, thought-provoking and entertaining show that brought many of the audience members, including myself, to tears with the raw emotion that each of the actors brought to the performance.
Wood and the rest of the cast and crew of “Dog Sees God” fully demonstrated how effort and talent were interwoven into the production of this show and established an extremely high standard for their future theatrical endeavors.