Within the first five minutes of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, a play that imagines the cast of Peanuts as high school students, we learn that Snoopy has recently contracted rabies, attacked and killed Woodstock, and subsequently been euthanized.
So that's how it's going to be.
In Dog Sees God, presented here by Brian Allard and Coho Productions, playwright Bert V. Royal imagines an unforgivable amount of unhappiness and dysfunction for Charles M. Schulz's beloved characters. The script is unauthorized by Schulz's estate, so the characters are all given flimsy pseudonyms. For the purposes of maintaining some level of coherence in this review, I'm going to refer to the original character names.
Charlie Brown (Noah Goldenberg) is a sensitive teen who struggles with depression (you guessed it: the "rain cloud"). Linus (Tristyn Chipps) is a goofy stoner; Lucy (Ally Yancey) is a pyromaniac, institutionalized for setting the Little Red-Haired Girl's curls on fire; Schroeder (Joel Durham) has grown into a sensitive pianist, bullied for being gay; Pig-Pen (Nathan Daniels) is an aggressive, obsessively hygienic testosterone case.
Insofar as the show has a plot, it's a love story between Schroeder and Charlie Brown—both unsure of their sexuality, the two boys embark on a tentative relationship, to the shock and horror of their friends. Unfortunately, even a live-action Charlie Brown can't catch a break. Suffice it to say that all does not end happily ever after.
Dog Sees God has more than a few solid scenes, but as a whole, the play is clogged with glib references to the source material—playwright Royal just does not know when to quit. The show's runtime crams in more high school clichés than an entire season of Degrassi, but things don't get really embarrassing until Charlie Brown starts complaining that sometimes he feels like a character in someone else's story.
The script is an indulgent, tiresome mess, but here's the bitch of it: The young cast is great—bright, charismatic, and funny. Goldenberg gives the sweetest performance imaginable as Charlie Brown, while Durham as Schroeder perfectly captures the watchful attitude of a smart kid who's used to being bullied. Too bad their energy and promise aren't harnessed to a better script. ALISON HALLETT