Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead—Clark College—Vancouver WA.



The Death of Childhood

This very dark comedy by Bert V. Royal and directed by H. Gene Biby, plays at Clark College Decker Theater through May 17th.  For more information call 360-992-2815 or go to their site at http://www.clark.edu/academics/programs/humanities/theatre/season.php.

If you are familiar with the word “blockhead,” as it describes a certain famous character, then you get a hint of what the play may be about.  Yes, Charlie Brown is finally a teenager but, in this day and age, that is not necessarily an easy transition.  And to be an honest adaptation of this scary new world, you have to have the angst that goes with it.

And this angst, played out to the fullest, includes bullying, drugs, killings, suicide, sexual identity issues, crime, passion, drinking and madness.  All of these complications are encountered by a real-life Charles and his gang.  The sweet, simple, naïve world of his former existence comes crashing down when reality raises its ugly head.  And, like most of us, we must say adieu to that idyllic world and plow headfirst into adulthood.

As a teenager, CB, or Charlie Brown (James Martine) is still unsure of himself and still considered a loser by most of his “friends.”  His sister (Elena Mack), aka Sally, doesn’t look up to him anymore and has her own cool friends she hangs out with, Marcy, aka Marci (Keren Garcia) and Trica (Danielle Weddle), aka Peppermint Patty.  They are into drugs, drinking, partying and, of course, boys.

The boys in his band don’t fare much better.  Van, aka Linus (Garrett Dabbs), is a pothead and he wields his pipe around with him now like his old, blue security blanket.  His sister, aka Lucy (Emily Wells), is still involved with psychiatry, but on the receiving end this time.  Beethoven, aka Schroder (Sam Ruble), still plays his beloved piano but is having a sexual identity crisis.  And Matt, aka Pigpen (JD Carpenter), is now a germaphobic and a bully.

And most of the rest of the Peanuts gang don’t go unscathed, either.  Snoopy, Charlie’s beagle, and Woodstock, Snoopy’s yellow, feathered friend, have met tragic ends before the play begins.  The little red-headed girl was set afire.  Spike, Snoopy’s brother, is never mentioned.  Only Charlie’s Pen Pal from afar seems to have escaped the wrath of “growing pains.”

I’ve given you the flavor of the piece.  To reveal more would not allow you to discover the relationships and secrets they have.  I especially like “the doctor is in” scene, as “Lucy” rails against the world.  And there are some touching moments between CB and Beethoven.  But, I think, the author, Royal, is trying too hard to make a match between the old Peanuts characters and the angst of this modern world of Youth.  It’s as if he has two stories to tell and they don’t necessarily mesh all the time.

And the theme might be that, when Innocence dies, we really don’t have anything very positive to replace it.  He’s right.  Many prominent role models celebrate Greed, War and Intolerance.  And the computer age has done us no favors, as it seems to be pulling human contact apart.  So, we should ask ourselves, when our toys are neatly stored away, what will happen to “Little Boy Blue, since he kissed them and put them there?”
Biby is a fine director and has assembled a good cast for this show and they all do well.
They are too young to identify with the Peanuts generation but are very able, I’m sure, to connect with the teen angst of today.  Martine is spot-on as Charlie and Mack, equally good as his sister.  Ruble plays Beethoven with a nice sensitivity and Wells is terrific as “Lucy.”
This is a very adult play in both in situations and language, as well as turning the iconic “Peanuts” characters upside-down.  But I would recommend it.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.