Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Flint Community Players stepped out on the edge Friday to present Bert V. Royal’s prickly send-up of the Charles M. Schulz Peanuts gang, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead. It’s a 90-minute, darkly comic, emotion-ridden glimpse at what the kids may have become in adolescence.
Director Tomoko Miller, in her first foray into directing, has assembled an eclectic troupe to portray these slightly veiled comic strip characters. Clearly the names are changed to protect the playwright from any legal repercussions, but they also reflect the fact that these are no longer children.
Seth Hart is CB (Charlie Brown?), who faced with the rabid demise of his beloved dog (and horrified to see that the beagle had also destroyed the little yellow bird) seems on a mission to discover “what happens when we die”. Hart is appropriately angst-ridden complete with furrowed brow and slightly scurrying gait as he looks for answers from among his friends.
A newcomer to FCP, Sara Kilgore plays CB’s Sister (Sally?). Younger than CB, she is nonetheless a teen and taken to professing various personas such as a prominent Wiccan ideal. Still, Kilgore does exude innocence especially when dealing with the likes of Van (Linus?).
As for Van, George M. Marzonie brings the teen version to disturbing life, as a somewhat drug-addled pothead still willing to offer “advice” and “wisdom”. He is often gathered sleazily around a table in the school lunchroom with Marcy (Marie L. VanHorn) and Tricia (Sarah Jarrett), where the girls drink alcohol-spiked soda and make non-stop fun of a bulimic classmate. VanHorn is hilarious as the approval-driven Marcy (Marcie?), bouncing and bubbling giddily all the while wondering if this is really the “cool table”.
Jarrett’s version of Tricia (Peppermint Patty?) is crass, often mean, but always comical. Her teen portrayal of the pushy and slightly dense Patty allows for a good deal of comic license in demeanor and expression. Paired with VanHorn, these two are a hoot.
Then Royal adds Matt (Alex Weiss), a germ phobic, homophobic, woman-obsessed bully, to stir the pot. Every story needs some conflict and this character more than fills that bill. Weiss brings a bundle of emotions from rage to jealousy to bear on the proceedings. He can even be downright scary, a far cry from his doppelganger, Pigpen.
So what about CB’s nemesis, the overbearing Lucy? Dubbed by Royal as Van’s Sister, Lauren Kondrat plays the incarcerated version of the 5-cent psychiatrist. Seems she set a classmate’s curly red hair on fire and was hospitalized to work out her problems. Kondrat is rather incredible in this role. Her wildly swinging moods all play out in a very confined visitor space as she meets handcuffed to chat with CB.
Finally, the musically nerdy Beethoven allows Mark A. Vukelich to really shine as the conflicted, bullied and talented young man we once knew as Schroeder. Having endured unending torment after his father went to jail for molesting him, he has withdrawn to his music. However, when confronted by CB with his question about death, the conversation takes a sexual turn that has both of them amazed.
Issues abound in this script. Obviously death heads the list, but it is joined by teen violence, drug abuse, rebellion, sexual identity, and suicide. Okay, there was a certain amount of underlying conflict in their earlier days, but this gang has arrived at adolescence with a pretty big boatload of problems, and they don’t really seem to realize it. Only CB, as usual, has a grasp of the seriousness the next step may hold and their unpreparedness to meet it. As one audience member was heard to say Friday, “I’m so happy I’m not in high school today!”
We should also mention this show carries a caveat: “Presented for mature audiences as it contains simulated drug and alcohol use, harsh language, and sexually suggestive material.” With that said, this is an exceptionally well-done piece. Perhaps not for the squeamish, it is impeccable in its presentation and technically precise.
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead continues July 25 at 7:30pm and July 26 at 2:30pm at the Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy. Flint 48507.