Bert V. Royal’s interpretation of the classic Peanuts characters is a unique one, involving aspects of French theatre and realism while exploring issues of homosexuality and philosophy.
The production was done by the not-for-profit Harrison Hilltop Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, a small venue across from a few bars that sat about 30 spectators in couches and other randomly collected chairs that sat close to performance area.
The philosophical view comes out early on when CB’s dog dies as he writes a letter to his pen pal at his desk. The teenage Charlie Brown and his sister hold a funeral for Snoopy, prompting them to wonder what happens when dogs die. CB receives his sister’s thoughts, then later asks Van for his. Van is the grown-up version of Linus, who has taken up smoking weed and becomes the stereotypical stoner philosopher. Matt, the homophobic germophobe formerly known as Pigpen, gives his thoughts.
Over lunch, Marcy talked about having a party since her parents were going to be out of town. Tricia – Peppermint Patty – was all for it. They both poured alcohol into their milk cartons, so they were definitely looking forward to the party. Meanwhile, CB snuck into a practice room where Beethoven, or Schroeder, quietly played piano, where he confronted Beethoven about his sexuality. Beethoven was reluctant to talk since CB, along with the entire gang, had beaten him up before. CB turned to the topic of homosexuality again and kissed Beethoven.
Later that night, Beethoven showed up at the party and was ridiculed once again by Matt. CB defended him and kissed him again. Both left embarrassed.
Naturally, in a great cause-to-effect line of logic, the kids at school the next day were uneasy talking about the moment they’d witnessed the night before over lunch, at first avoided it before Matt left in a rage. Surely high school children would make that the cornerstone of discussion.
Confused, CB turned to the imprisoned Lucy – recognized in this play as Van’s sister – who was in for lighting the red-haired girl’s hair on fire. Arguably the best individual performer, Lucy gave her advice to CB, who admitted to having sex with Beethoven after the party. After much joking around, Lucy told CB she was proud of him for finally being different for once.
CB went back to see Beethoven practicing the next day, embracing his new feelings, though Beethoven was still unsure. As CB left, Matt entered, lodging slurs at Beethoven and telling him, “It’s just wrong!” The scene ended with Matt smashing Beethoven against the piano.
The next scene revealed that Beethoven had killed himself as a result. As the classmates shared their sympathy for Beethoven, CB was upset that none of them had embraced Beethoven before. When he returned home to his desk to write, he received a letter from his pen pal telling him to stay strong. The letter was signed, “CS.”
Dog Sees God is an extension of realism in a variety of ways. For one, all the locations were in common places. CB and his sister buried the dog in a backyard, the entire group partied in a house, and many scenes were supposed to take place inside of a high school.
The characters weren’t dressed in anything out of the ordinary, resembling historical French and Elizabethan times. All of the clothes looked like something the actors may have gone out and bought the day of the show. CB had on jeans, a yellow t-shirt, and an undone black button-up shirt over it. Matt wore jeans and an Aeropostale hoodie. Marcy wore glasses, with plain tan pants and a salmon-colored shirt, while her friend Tricia wore a green blouse with a black dress. Beethoven was dressed slightly nerdier, with a black-and-purple-striped white-collared shirt and khaki cargo pants.
The scene set-ups were also simple, with solid-colored sliding doors to bring out and conceal minimal props.
With no prior knowledge of this, it was a great recommendation inside an intimate setting.