We saw our granddaughter in an elementary school spring concert on Thursday, and during the third-grade chorus segment, I noticed the shenanigans of a few singers — twitchy, goofy, and individual kids amid their supremely attentive classmates.
‘Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead’
WHERE: Creative License, Albany Barn, 56 2nd St., Albany
WHEN: Through June 13
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: www.creativelicenseonline.com
I was reminded of them while watching “Dog Sees God” on Saturday, the second offering of a new troupe that has corralled some of the area’s best actors/techies to mount unusual scripts. The company’s second effort is Bert V. Royal’s long one-act, the palindromic “Dog Sees God,” an homage, of sorts, though unauthorized by the Charles Schulz Estate, to the comic strip “Peanuts.” And, except for an unnecessary peroration, it’s a funny and absorbing piece of theater, expertly performed.
As we all know, the “Peanuts” characters are — well, us. Like that big chorus peppered with a handful of charming one-of-a-kinds, childhood is noteworthy for friends who are, and aren’t, like us. With only minor discombobulation, though, we manage to survive elementary school.
High school, however, is a different story, and it’s here where we meet these familiar comic-strip characters as foul-mouthed, alcohol-swilling and dope-dealing teens. Everybody is trying to become somebody, but within reason: you want to be able to sit at a lunch table with your pals —geeks, jocks, artists, stoners, cool kids. We’ve all been there.
For example, Van (a hilarious Isaac Newberry) is a knock-off of Linus, the insecure kid with the blanket who now relies on dope to get him through the day. Van’s sister (a scary and touching Haley Beauregard) is the playwright’s version of Lucy, now in a psych ward for lighting the little red-headed girl’s hair on fire. And you’ll have fun connecting the other Schulz characters with Royal’s dark treatment of them.
At the heart of the script, of course, is CB (Tom Templeton, in an amusing, sweet, and deeply nuanced performance). Here is our Everyman, Charlie Brown, basically the same as a teen as he was as a kid, taking his own time finding out who he is, not settling for the panicky quick fix of anti-social anodynes. His relationship with Beethoven (Ben Katagiri, who handles the character and the music beautifully) soon becomes the focus of the play, prompting discord and disaster.
Rounding out the cast are Dana Goodknight as CB’s sister, actively searching for her own identity; co-producer Casey Polomaine as the acid-tongued Tricia; Rhiannon Antico as perky, go-along Marcy; and Ian LaChance as the bully Matt. Each of these fine actors, whose pictures in the program remind me of the famous National Lampoon Yearbook parody from 45 years ago, etches a personality you won’t forget. Beth Ruman’s colorful costumes are apt character accents.
Director Aaron Holbritter has utilized three levels of playing space — stage, floor, balcony — to good effect, enhanced by Nick Nealon’s lighting design. And Holbritter’s work with the actors, which grows out of his own experience as a first-rate performer, allows the mood to shift easily from riotous to touching to unsettling.
Despite the fact that this play is about the vicissitudes of high school, the raw material makes it suitable for mature audiences.