The blockhead finally rises

Linus is a bong-smoking pothead. Peppermint Patty and Marcy are the high school sluts.

Starlise Waschuk as Tricia

Starlise Waschuk as Tricia

Linus is a bong-smoking pothead. Peppermint Patty and Marcy are the high school sluts.

Lucy has become an institutionalized pyromaniac, and strangest of all, Charlie Brown is — gasp! — one of the popular kids.

Dog sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, which opened this week at The Matchbox in Red Deer, messes so much with the time and space continuum that the Peanuts gang seem to have entered the world of Superbad.

Ignition Theatre’s latest offering by Burt V. Royal paints a darkly entertaining and completely inappropriate picture of Charles Schulz’s beloved comic strip characters as they reach their troubled adolescent years.

Like films of the Superbad ilk, Dog Sees God, deftly directed by Matt Grue, is full of the F-word, oral sex references and homosexual slurs.

But just when you think it’s all becoming too gratuitous, the play closes on an unexpectedly touching note. The ending doesn’t exactly make sense of all the teenage hijinx that preceded it, but at least it makes some kind of point — which is welcome after all the brainless profanity and raging out-of-control hormones.

The plot, in a nutshell, is this: Charlie Brown (known here as C.B. for copyright reasons, and well played by Ryan Matilla) is seeking answers to life’s big questions after his rabid dog eats the little yellow bird and has to be put down.

C.B’s sister Sally, played by Mari Chartier, is too busy trying on identities from Goth to drama-kid to Wiccan to be of much use to him.

And none of his friends are much help either — not stoner Linus (a.k.a. Van, hilariously portrayed by a bearded Paul Sutherland), or Van’s sister who tried to set the little red-haired girl’s hair on fire. (Lucy, played by a low-key Erin Odell, is supposed to be C.B.’s ex-girlfriend — would that pairing ever have happened after all those pulled football debacles?)

Tricia (formerly Peppermint Patty, played by Starlise Waschuk) and Marcy (Chantel Hutchison) are too preoccupied with gossiping and planning their next hookups to bother about C.B.’s problem.

And Matt (the former Pigpen, played by Chris Cook) has become too much of a boneheaded bully to really give a damn.

The only kid that seems to be listening — at least at first — is quiet Beethoven (formerly known as Schroeder, played by Chad Pitura).

Bullied by all of his one-time friends, who call him gay, Beethoven is trying to work out exactly where he fits in the dog-eat-dog high school sphere.

But he’s mostly just trying to stay under the radar — so imagine Beethoven’s mortification when C.B. does something completely outrageous that singles him out at a party.

Dog Sees God touches on a lot of troublesome issues that affect teens, including various forms of abuse, alcoholism, drug-use, promiscuity, sexual identity confusion, eating disorders, and suicide.

It doesn’t offer any deep revelations about any of the above, but through C.B.’s example, the play shows that being true to yourself is probably the best way to make it through adolescence alive and well, with some integrity intact.

Charlie Brown might well be a blockhead, but he’s also shown to be the most honest and brave character of the bunch. He shows his true feelings, even knowing how unpopular they could make him among his peers.

This makes him a highly unusual teenager.

Good grief! It even makes Charlie Brown, of all people, a role model. Aargh!

(Special mention must go to lighting designer Patrick Beagan, sound guy Dustin Clark, costumer Clayton Hitchcock, and set designer Cindy Ridge for creating an imaginative and highly identifiable Peanuts universe).

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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