The Bay Area Zeta Players, an all student-run theater organization, recently put on their latest production: Dog Sees God: The Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead. In this “unauthorized parody” of Charlie Brown, the Peanuts gang morphed from lovable children into angsty teenagers grappling with death, drugs, suicide, sexuality, and a myriad of other issues. After the death of his trusty beagle Snoopy, Charlie Brown became obsessed with what happens after one dies. His odd behavior disrupted the social ecosystem and set off a chain of events that force characters to confront their inner demons.
The overall concept, “dog sees god” was executed very professionally with minimal mistakes and great acting. I was especially impressed with Cheyenne Costanza, who played Lucy, and Noé Castréjon, who played Matt, also known as Pigpen. Both actors brought lots of energy to their demanding roles.
The script is risqué to say the least, filled with all types of profane language. While we all use profane language, it was mildly disturbing to hear it from the young actors. My main problem with this play was its conflicting elements of humor and drama; something that I think sprung partly from the actors actually being the same ages as their characters.
The plot, although chock full of intensity, serious teenage issues, was not very serious at all. The script’s oversaturation with dramatic events makes it completely theatrical and campy, like Skins or Glee times 10. And of course, it was even harder to take it seriously because the whole story is executed through the beloved cast of Peanuts.
“Some of the other … [shows] I saw, they tried to play it as a full comedy … most of the lines were played for laughs and the characters were two dimensional caricatures,” said Director Nora Cesareo-Dense. She also added that she wanted to portray the character’s humanity. “We didn’t want them to be fake because a lot of the things that happen in this show are real things that … high schoolers experience every day,” said Cesareo-Dense. I respect the director’s decision to abandon some of the humor and try to deal with the subject matter more respectfully, although it did not always work due to the nature of the play.
Though the whole thing missed the mark for me, I still applaud the Bay Area Zeta Players for taking a crack at this difficult play, and trying to respect the issues it dealt with while still making it enjoyable. “We had a lot of cast discussions about … all of the really heavy parts of the show,” Cesareo-Dense said. “Just making sure people understood the content of it and the depth of it … To show it, is way more powerful than just talking about it.”
Disclaimer: Entertainment Editor, David Copithorne, was involved in the Dog Sees God production.