What if cartoon characters from your childhood grew up to be troubled teens? This is the premise of Bert V. Royal’s “Dog Sees God“. Though billed as a (unauthorised) parody of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts characters, the play doesn’t have a lot of laughs; but there is quite a lot of exaggeration.
Familiar Characters now all Grown Up
CB’s (Nel Gomez) dog died, as he tells an unnamed penpal. Confused and grieving, he goes out to meet his friends. We’re reintroduced to familiar characters, all of which turned out as radical versions of their defining traits as teenagers. Van’s sister or Lucy (Sarah Facuri) is now a locked up pyromaniac. Matt (Brian Sy), or Pig-pen, is now a germaphobe along with having other more sinister phobias. Beethoven (Vince Lim), or Schroeder, is now a reclusive and obsessive piano player, and so on.
More importantly, they’re also American high schoolers who fall under American high schooler archetypes. I suppose this is necessary when you’re touching on typical American teen problems like peer pressure, homophobia, bullying, suicide, rape, shaming, abuse, sex, drug use, abortion, juvenile crime, and so on. While Royal’s material tries to be as comprehensive as possible by slapping each character with one or two of these big problems to deal with, there’s not a lot of time for adequate exploration. As a result, themes like bullying and homophobia are rightfully condemned while the rampant casual sex, habitual drug use, and underrage drinking aren’t just glossed over, they’re used for comedic effect.
(READ: Newest Theater Company, Twin Bill Theater, Debuts with Dog Sees God)
While it speaks highly of Kathleen Francisco (Tricia), Maronne Cruz (Marcy), and Gab Medina (Van)’s performances that they’re the most entertaining and likeable characters in the bunch, it undercuts the seriousness of their bad behaviour, too. But, I guess you have to pick your battles and Mr. Royal picked bullying. He tells us non-too-subtly (as aided by Mr. Lim’s strong portrayal of Beethoven) that bullying leads to tragic consequences.
Twin Bill Theater’s Debut Production
As Twin Bill Theater’s first production, “Dog Sees God” is an interesting debut. As part of this year’s Fringe Festival, it certainly has the grit and creativity the festival champions. They turned quaint little bakery, Staple and Perk, into a dark, intimate setting that is appropriate for the serious material.