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Little Theatre of Alexandria Dog Sees God

By • Nov 30th, 2009 • Category: Reviews

“The Charlie Brown Christmas” CBS TV special is full of heart. In Dog Sees God the “Peanuts” cartoon characters reconvene for a stage show that is often heartless.

That is the difference between elementary school and high school, according to DSG playwright Bert V. Royal. Charlie Brown and company are teenagers in Royal’s 90-minute drama of teen angst.

The show begins with Charlie in mourning over the death of Snoopy, his once-jolly beagle. As 22 brief scenes come and go, things brighten up a bit — at first. Eventually, though, Charlie is mourning the death of his boyfriend (yep, he’s gay, or a least bi.)

Charlie’s sister Sally tries on various identities — Goth pagan, modern dance diva — but her experiments don’t mitigate speedy reflex homophobia. Her distress at having a queer brother is nothing, however, compared to Pig Pen’s seething, raging intolerance. Pig Pen, now going by the name of Matt, is an anti-gay hate crime waiting to happen. The wait is not long.

Remember Schroeder, the piano freak? Now we learn that his anti-social isolation was not so much a love of music as a symptom of incest. Beethoven and Chopin help him cope with the effects of sexual abuse. Playing the piano also helps him to numb the pains inflicted by Pig Pen and his gang of bullies.

Linus is a pot head. His sister Lucy is doing hard time in the juvi psycho ward: she set the Little Red Headed Girl’s hair on fire. Peppermint Patty and Marcy are mean girls. They excel at malicious gossip.

Since it premiered at the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival, DSG has popped up here and there across the US and abroad. Part of the show’s appeal comes from seeing familiar semi sweet characters in an unfamiliar sour bitter context. Anxiety still rules their lives. But the suffering has become toxic, even lethal.

The current Little Theatre of Alexandria production of DSG, directed by William D. Parker, emphasizes rueful humor. But even underscored, the jokes are mild. Linus, we learn, put the ashes of his cremated security blanket into a joint and smoked them. The notion doesn’t provoke a belly laugh. It is just an odd thought. Most of the humor follows a familiar current of sarcastic teens ridiculing sarcastic teens — always a equivocal sort of wit.

As Charlie, Patrick M. Doneghy adds sexual and peer-pressure worries to this Peanuts protagonist’s signature existential distress. Eventually he gives up on his poorly-executed conformity. The development is refreshing. But it is a long time coming, and it quickly dissipates into grief. As Pig Pen, Shawn g. Byers really is frightening — a wacko homophobe and gay-basher.

As befits a show based on a cartoon, most of the acting is super-simple and cartoonish: Jennifer Finch as the pyromaniacal Lucy, Allison S. Galen as ditsy Sally and Nicole Jacobs and Kat Sanchez as the bad-mouthing mean girls. Keith J. Miller writhes with emotional discomfort as Schroeder. Silvano Melgar, as Linus, blurs chronic panic with a haze of marijuana smoke.

As satirical comedy, DSG is more grim than funny. But the show does give intense expression to some strong feelings. DSG would be effective as a high school assembly program about callousness, bullying and homophobia. Of course one of the effects would be to get the principle fired. The dialog is full of bad words and flippant remarks about drinking, doping and sex.

And as for that title: It alludes to a witticism about dogs and cats. “A dog sees God in his master; a cat looks in the mirror.”

Photo Gallery

Allison S. Galen (C.B.’s Sister) and Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.) Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.) and Silvano Melgar (Van)
Allison S. Galen (C.B.’s Sister) and Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.)
Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.) and Silvano Melgar (Van)
Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.), Kat Sanchez (Marcy), Nicole Jacobs (Tricia), and Shawn g. Byers (Matt) Shawn g. Byers (Matt), Nicole Jacobs (Tricia), Kat Sanchez (Marcy), and Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.)
Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.), Kat Sanchez (Marcy), Nicole Jacobs (Tricia), and Shawn g. Byers (Matt)
Shawn g. Byers (Matt), Nicole Jacobs (Tricia), Kat Sanchez (Marcy), and Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.)
Jennifer Finch (Van’s Sister) and Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.) Kat Sanchez (Marcy) and Nicole Jacobs (Tricia)
Jennifer Finch (Van’s Sister) and Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.)
Kat Sanchez (Marcy) and Nicole Jacobs (Tricia)
Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.) and Keith J. Miller (Beethoven)
Patrick M. Doneghy (C.B.) and Keith J. Miller (Beethoven)

Photos by Sheila Price for the Little Theatre of Alexandria.

Disclaimer: Little Theatre of Alexandria provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.

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