Red. Collective’s latest presentation over in the Saw Gallery is Dog Sees God, a foray into the world of the comic strip Peanuts with the characters now in their troubled teen years.
Should you see it?
A blatant and weakly-staged soapbox that’s been painted over with Peanuts.
When Dog Sees God opens with C.B (read: Charlie Brown) writing to a pen pal about how his dog (read: Snoopy) was just put down because he contracted rabies and killed/mangled/ate a small yellow bird (read: Snoopy’s best bud, Woodstock), you know you’re not going to be getting a traditional interpretation of the beloved Peanuts characters. (Their names have been altered in the play, I’m guessing, to avoid a lawsuit.)
I thought for a good half of the play that Dog Sees God came about as a result of the playwright, Bert Royal, saying, “What’s the most disturbing and twisted thing I could do with these characters?” Then I started to realize it was just a poorly constructed (i.e., with all its seams showing) soapbox about bullying and homophobia in high school, painted over with the comic strip – probably to make it marketable.
(Gonna take an aside here: I think the message of acceptance and tolerance is laudable. My problem is that the play doesn’t bring anything new to the discussion or do a good job with the message.)
Dog Sees God starts off with C.B questioning the afterlife in relation to his dog in several scenes that serve no purpose but to introduce the whack of drunk, drugged up, mysoginistic, sex-addicted, sociopathic, roid-raged characters. Royal also tried to embue the characters with the traits of the originals but it often came across as insincere and leads to a lot of wooden dialogue.
The poorly-constructed narrative is introduced in the first strong scene of the play – one between the two strongest actors in the play, Dave Rowan as C.B. and Liam Murphy as Beethoven (read: Shroeder) – when we learn Beethoven was sexually abused by his father and is now being bullied by all of his former friends under the suspicion he’s gay. The highly charged scene ends with C.B. kissing Beethhoven out of the blue. There’s nothing subtle or intricate in the rest of the play. You’ve seen it all before and probably don’t need to see it again.
Material aside, several of the actors here were strong. Notably, as mentioned, Dave Rowan and Liam Murphy. Also Mina Delic had a very Jewel-Staite like winsomeness in her only scene as “Lucy” – who was institutionalized as a psychopath after she set fire to “that little red-haired girl’s” red locks. The fun scene, where C.B. pays her a visit was the second best scene in the play.
Then there’s Caitlin McNamee as ”Sally”. I thought she was horrible until I understood she was supposed to be playing super-dramatically over the top. (Cuz, Sally apparently never grew up at all.) After a few more mellow scenes that showed she really could, she was my favourite character to see on stage by the end of it all.
Also, the play is 90 minutes sans intermission. Not a bad thing, but unusual so I thought y’all should be aware. And I’ve never been a fan of Saw Gallery as a venue, but kudos to Red. Collective for making it work for them. The simple sets were well done and they worked the space well.
Conclusion: If you’re a fan of Peanuts, probably best to skip the murdering of beloved characters. If you’re not, you probably had no interest to begin with so go with it.
What did you think? Did you enjoy the show? Was I way off base? Join the discussion in the comments below.
Poster provided by Red.Collective.