Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

BATS Theatre, Wellington

03/08/2010 - 14/08/2010

Production Details



Good Grief! What if Charlie Brown grew up? 

The gang from the much-loved comic-strip are back, all grown-up
And they’re completely nuts 

The dog is dead, the boy is sad, his sister is a goth, his blanket-toting best buddy’s a pot-head and the rest of the gang are an assortment of sex-crazed, homophobic, narcissistic, hard-partying, institutionalised and down-right typical teenagers.

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead makes its New Zealand debut this August at BATS Theatre, bringing with it a bunch of hilarious and soul-searching answers to what happened when the loveable characters from Charles Schulz’s beloved comic strip Peanuts  grew into inglorious teenagers.

Playwright Bert V. Royal’s unsanctioned parody on teenage life begins as ‘CB’ mourns the loss of his adored beagle –who was put down after contracting rabies and mangling a certain little yellow bird to death.

But when then dog’s funeral descends into a farcical argument over who should say a prayer – and whether they should bother saying one at all – poor ol’ CB begins to question whether there is, in fact, a god.

With acclaimed US director Lori Leigh at the helm, this incarnation of Dog Sees God features a local cast of actors including ‘CB’ David Goldthorpe (Chet Baker : Like Someone in Love), CB’s sister Anna Harcourt (Vernon God Little), Paul Waggott (Sometimes I Don’t Like Yellow), Alex Greig (Henry V), Alison Walls, Jessica Aaltonen, Louise Burston and Theo Taylor. Bios and photos available on request. 

Since debuting in 2004, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead has taken the New York theatre scene by storm, picking up the Excellence Award and Best Overall Production in the New York International Fringe Festival 2004.

In addition to sold-out seasons around the world since its inception, Dog Sees God also recieved Theatermania’s Play Award of 2004, the GLAAD Media Award for Best Off-Off-Broadway production, Broadway.com’s 2006 Audience Award for Favorite Off-Broadway Production and the 2006 HX Award for Best Play.

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead 
August 3 – 14,  8.30pm
BATS Theatre
1 Kent Tce, Wellington
$18 full / $13 concession / $10 School groups 10+
Book at BATS: book@bats.co.nz  or ph 04 802 4175 


CAST:
Alex Greig:  Matt
Alison Walls:  Tricia
Anna Harcourt:  CB’s Sister
David Goldthorpe:  CB
Jessica Aaltonen:  Marcy
Louise Burston:  Van’s Sister
Paul Waggott:  Beethoven
Theo Taylor:  Van 

CREATIVE & CREW


Lighting Design - Marcus McShane
Set Design - Jane Wenley + Matt Bialostocki
Sound Design - David Goldthorpe
Costume Design - Elle Wootton
Graphic Design - Franc Cheetham
Photography - Tom Horder and Franc Cheetham

Stage Manager - Matt Bialostocki
Operator - Julia Campbell
Production Manager - David Goldthorpe
Assistant Production Manager - Elle Wootton
Set Construction and Painting - Jane Wenley
Publicity - Phil Reed @ Message Traders

DOG SEES GOD has not been authorized or approved in any manner by the Charles M. Schultz Estate or United Features Syndicate, which have no responsibility for its content.
By arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd, On Behalf of Dramatists Play Service, Inc New York.



Sex-obsessed cheerleaders and fit Van without blanket

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 09th Aug 2010

The teenage blockhead is of course Charlie Brown or CB as he is called for legal reasons in this comedy/ farce/ spoof/ parody which has the Peanuts gang all grown up. That is if you call stereotypical American teenagers straight out of American Pie-type movies and numerous TV series grown up. The humour, insights, charm, appeal, cuteness and sentimentality of Charles M Schulz’s comic strip, have all disappeared. Happiness is no longer a warm puppy as Snoopy too is, alas, gone.

CB ponders on death with Hamlet-like intensity, while poor old Schroeder, now called Beethoven, plays Chopin, and the rest are either hyped to the eyeballs on pot, or being bitchy vodka-swigging high school cheer leaders, while everyone is obsessed in one way or another with sex, straight or gay. In the end, however, the message (and third-rate American plays always get preachy) is the same as the Christian philosophy that lies behind Schulz’s cartoon: Love thy neighbour.

The trouble is a sketch has been stretched into a longish play, which is made bearable only because Lori Leigh has elicited some first rate performances from her cast: David Goldthorpe as the puzzled but the now not-quite-such-a-good-man CB, Theo Taylor wringing out all the humour from the doped to the eye-balls of the unexpectedly athletic Van, who once owned a blanket, and Paul Waggott outstanding with a subtle and very moving portrait of the bullied Beethoven.

Comments

Make a comment

Good grief?

Review by John Smythe 04th Aug 2010

It starts and ends with a funeral, which aligns with the palindrome title: dog sees god. The first is for CB’s dog, which only his sister turns up for. But everyone is there for the group counselling session following the suicide of … one of their number.

This very morning the Dominion Post has Charlie Brown calling himself a blockhead because “I lost us the championship.” Hence the subtitle: confessions of a teenage blockhead.

For some reason I had expected this show to be little more than a gross-out demolishing of the Peanuts comic characters’ child-like innocence now they are past puberty and in senior high school. As a parody of teen-angst drama (it covers all the clichés) it does go for gross but there’s more to it than that. It continues the enquiry into peer-group cruelty that was Peanuts creator Charles Schultz’s initial theme.

Playwright Bert V Royal is careful not to explicitly name the characters after Schultz’s creations, who remained children from 1950-2000. Indeed the programme carries a disclaimer insisting neither his estate nor the distributor of his comic strips have any responsibility for this play’s content. So part of the game is to pick the character.

CB (Charlie Brown) is grieving the loss of his beagle (Snoopy) who has died of rabies after mangling a small yellow bird (Woodstock). Only CB’s Sister (Sally),who has exchanged her girly sloth persona for a Goth phase, turns up. She ridicules his desire to know what happens to dogs after they die.

Perpetually stoned Van (Linus van Pelt, the philosopher – guess what he did with his blanket) offers the Buddhist options. Sex-addict Matt (Pig-Pen) can’t see past the end of his dick except when feeling threatened by “faggots” and germs. He is a clean-freak now and Van will have a “wow man” insight into what’s behind Matt’s hang-ups.

Tricia York (Peppermint Patti) and her side-kick Marcy* (Marcie), no longer tom-boys, do the ditzy party-girl thing – planning one at Marcy’s house – in the high school cafeteria, while Beethoven (Schroeder) hides out in the music room to avoid being bullied for being gay. Having become estranged, because Beethoven wants to protect his best friend from being bullied too, he and CB re-bond over the keyboards, where the plot takes a sudden and surprising turn.

Marcy’s party brings the hetero v homo sexual issues to a head and on the next school day everyone is still reeling. Meanwhile CB visits Van’s Sister (Lucy, who used to offer Charlie psychiatric advice) in the institution where she has been incarcerated for setting fire to the hair of Little Red Haired Girl (who was Charlie’s dream girl).

More than one reference is made to loners who one day bring a gun to school … but it’s a suicide that brings the play to its emotional climax and makes them all reassess. Cloying moralising and sentimentality are avoided because Royal stays true to Shultz’s ever-questing tone, not least by book-ending the play with CB communing with his Pen Pal, a silent ‘good listener’ who surprisingly replies – by letter – at the end and signs himself “CS”.

US-born director Lori B Leigh has taken Van’s “Us defines us” as pan human (rather than the US of A), which is certainly how most readers world-wide will have related to Peanuts. Thus, without relocating the story, the actors use their own voices rather than American accents, which works a treat. Adolescent cruelty – and humour – are universal.

David Goldthorpe’s well-centred and suitably earnest CB – he continues to be a ‘good man’ – anchors the production in truth. In a stand-out performance Paul Waggott brings such stunning depth and detail to Beethoven, one wonders if all the other characters have those dimensions too, in the writing. The angst-ridden and psychologically complex scenes between CB and Beethoven are painfully excellent.

Anna Harcourt has fun as CB’s Sister, commenting on, rather than ‘being’, the character in search of her true identity. She is the sole member of the drama club, and I can’t help but wonder if there is more pathos to be mined from her solo show about a caterpillar who would rather be a platypus than a butterfly.

Van the stoner is endearingly played by Theo Taylor, who manages to inject some of his trade-mark acrobatics into the role to good effect. Matt is very well nailed by Alex Greig, compelling us to see the vulnerability and confusion behind the odious behaviour that can nevertheless be attractive to equally confused young women.


The obvious ‘acting’ of Alison Walls’s Tricia and Jessica Aaltonen’s Marcy is true to character. They work very well as a team – their synchronicity moments are great – but apart from Marcy’s intelligence-betraying raves and her freak out at what someone’s brother is doing on her parent’s barbecue, the script seems to offer few opportunities to see much beneath their ‘party-girl’ facades.

Van’s sister, in her single scene with CB, is revealed as intriguingly complex by Louise Burston, existing as she does on the knife-edge between love and hate, and liking lithium too much to have a strong incentive to moderate her behaviour. Her witty insights earn good laughs.

Under the guise of parody, which makes it seem trite and obvious at times, Dog Sees God finally pays tribute to the core values of the source material. You don’t have to have grown up on Peanuts to appreciate it, although recalling who these characters were as children before the hormones kicked in does add some depth to the concept.  

As with the comic strip, its simple treatment of complex and enduring social issues leaves us with plenty to ponder. One may even think twice about the meaning of CB’s favourite phrase: Good grief.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
*Trivia point: Anna Paquin played Marcy in a 2005 reading of Dog Sees God at the off-Broadway Westside Theatre, in mid-town Manhattan, between its winning of Best Overall Production in the New York International Fringe Festival 2004 and the GLAAD Media Award for Best Off-Off-Broadway production, Broadway.com’s 2006 Audience Award for Favorite Off-Broadway Production and the 2006 HX Award for Best Play
_______________________________
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 

Comments

Blair Everson August 5th, 2010

I think that while Sick! dealt with the bullying/cruelty in the schoolyard issue in a really overt way, Dog Sees God takes the issue and uses it as a vehicle to explore other issues and how they relate to each other. In Dog Sees God, the idea of bullying is intertwined with the idea of identity (which is largely dealt with through the gay issue that drives a lot of the plot); most, if not all, of the cruelty enacted is as a result of the characters' identity issues.

So yeah, I think that while in Sick! there was definitely the overall message of bullying being a bad thing and bullies getting their comeuppance (and, I guess, the ability of people to be fickle), Dog Sees God manages to explore that idea and its motivations in a less simplified manner and to far greater effect. I was definitely left with a lot more to think about after Dog Sees God than after Sick!. It also didn't hurt that Dog Sees God was just overall a really, really good production.

Welly Watch August 4th, 2010

You know what I reckon Sick! In the Young & Hungry line-up this year covered the ‘cruelty in the school yard’ topic better. This is good but that was better.

John Smythe August 4th, 2010

I forgot to mention the excellent set by Jane Wenley and Matt Bialostocki, astutely lit by Marcus McShane, and the well-selected costumes by Elle Wooton.

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council