From the start, Dog Sees God is provocative and upfront. Coupled with sexual experimentation, drug use, eating disorders and violence, Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters are back in action in the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre’s production of this satire. Don’t expect to see the same innocent Charlie Brown or Lucy of comics past, as the play’s characters are all hormonal, teenage versions of the Peanuts characters we know and love.
CB, also known as Charlie Brown, is reeling from the death of his beloved Snoopy. He ponders life and death and questions the existence of heaven, trying to connect with his friends to find solace. Along with the audience, he discovers his childhood friends are very different people today; each has changed after overcoming loss and obstacles in their adolescence. Their experiences have shaped them into the characters audiences see before them on stage, though they clearly remain informed by their comic book counterparts.
“If you think of who the Peanuts characters were in the comic strip around age 8, and fast forward eight or 10 more years, their neuroses follow what Schultz set up,” said Vince Cardinal, chair of the theater department and director of Dog Sees God. “For example, it’s appropriate that Linus, who always fantasized and was lost in his thoughts, is now the pothead. Who they were in the comic develops to what you will see on stage.”
Angst-filled, aggressive, and self-conscious, the characters are both honest and believable. The actors of Dog Sees God have honed their skills to put forth a shocking and thought-provoking performance.
Max Emerson, who plays Matt (an older Pigpen), said, “I think people will learn that theater is not passive. Old people will [probably want to]walk out within the first scene…I think the word ‘fuck’ is said more than five times in one minute.
“But the content can be strong, because the message is so strong,” said the senior. ” It’s putting the cartoons in the real world.”
In Dog Sees God, the Peanuts characters are used as a means to explore more adult themes and difficult topics, ones people often feel uncomfortable discussing. However, familiarity with the characters allows the audience to be receptive to the play’s message and feel less intimidated by the plotline. Dog Sees God is a play about real issues, how people deal with them and finding one’s sense of self.
Additionally, sophomore Tim Murray, who portrays CB, believes the play extends an important message of self-respect.
“We all have our own personal rain clouds, and when CB embraces his rain cloud at the end of the play it is a message to everyone to accept who you are, because you cannot change it and there is no reason why you should want to,” he said. “Every day of rehearsal I’m reminded of how important it is to tell this story, and that’s an amazing thing.”
If You Go:
What: Dog Sees God
When: Feb. 19, 21, 25, and 27 at 8 p.m., and Feb. 22 and 28 at 2 p.m.
Where: Jerry Herman Ring Theater
Cost: Weeknights and matinees: $6 for students, Friday and Saturday nights: $8 for students.