Charlie Brown and his Peanuts friends are much loved comic strip characters. They view life through rose colored glasses but their charm comes from the ideal life they lead. Playwright Bert V. Royal uses these characters differently in his wonderfully funny new play, “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.” The comedy, well produced by the Stray Cat Theatre, looks more realistically at these characters as they confront the ups and downs of daily life.
The play opens with poor Charlie Brown, here known as CB, dealing with his beloved dog’s death. With his friend gone, CB deals with the others in his life. But these characters, while similar to those in the comic strip, are brighter, more involved in life’s complexities, and are anxious to find their place in life as they explore their angers, fears, and sexual identities.
The play provides nonstop, funny takes on a myriad of situations that spring from the characters and the comic strip they inhabited, but these circumstances are more challenging and are very amusing.
Part of the play’s humor is attributable to the fine Stray Cat Theatre production. This troupe picks unusual plays and mounts them with a fabulous theatrical panache. Director Marcos D. Voss keeps the play flying along and lets scenic designer David J. Castellano handle a myriad of locales by briskly moving in and out revealing set pieces that are displayed against a cartoon backdrop.
The fine cast knows just how to portray the play’s humor so that the bizarre takes on the familiar characters become crisply amusing. Eric Zaklukiewicz is an amazing CB. He’s gawky and innocent but worldly as he confronts life, explores his sexuality, keeps friends even with those rejected by others, and approaches life with a steadfast determination to succeed.
Alex Raines’ Matt is an angry homophobic guy with an unnatural fascination with CB. Sam Wilkes turns the troubled and sexually ambivalent pianist, Beethoven, into a sympathetic character. Kim Jeffries has a field day as CB’s all-knowing Sister, Jannese Davidson has great fun as the tartish Marcy, while Emily Pelzer is an all-knowing Tricia who gives advice freely as she confronts her own fascination with fire. The others perform with delicious comic style.
“Dog Sees God” is an enjoyable gem. You must be willing to see familiar Charlie Brown characters with an open honesty but, if you can, you’ll enjoy this play a lot. “Dog See God” continues through November 17. For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-820-8022 or go online at www.straycattheatre.org.