Peanuts Gang Grows Up Hard In First Rate Production Of ‘Dog Sees God’ At LALT’s Performing Arts Center

The friends party hard in ‘Dog Sees God’. Photo by Larry Gibbons

CB (Stuart Rupprecht) ponders the death of his beloved Beagle. Photo by Larry Gibbons

 

Review by BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos Little Theatre’s “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” opened Friday at the Performing Arts Center. The play, written by Bert V. Royal presents the Peanuts gang from the comic strip during their teenage years. Sex, drugs and rock and roll have hit them hard and they aren’t ready. CB (guess who?) is at the center of the story.

Royal’s reimagining of these familiar characters in a dark comedy, where no one is innocent any longer, gives it emotional depth it wouldn’t otherwise attain. We already care about the characters when we come in.

I’m not going to give away any of the plot, because surprise is very important to one’s experience in the theatre with this play.

Teens dealing with death, sex, suicide, bullying, mental illness and drugs is nothing new, but their treatment in this play has some twists and turns that make it unique. Here’s an example. Rage and fear get the characters in trouble, but CB’s eternal optimism and willingness to see the best in everyone may be the most dangerous of all.

The mix of comedy, tragedy, truth and fiction are what makes “Dog Sees God” work as a play. The magnificent direction by Ken Milder, assisted by Pat Beck and stage manager Bonnie Kiang and the bang up job done by the ensemble cast are what make it truly memorable.

This is some of the best ensemble work I’ve ever seen by LALT. I believed with all my heart that these characters had been friends since childhood and knew each other well. They are absolutely believable, in spite of the comedy elements, which send them over the top as characters. And we care about them all. We care so much, it trumps any quibbles with the script.

CB carries the play and Stuart Rupprecht is wonderful in the role. He’s perfect as CB navigates the murky waters of tragedy, retaining his basic character but giving him new depths. Patrick MacDonald is equally wonderful as Beethoven, the outcast everyone uses as a focus for their hatred, anger and fear.

Every cast member captures their character. They are believable as teens. Stoner Van could be a stereotype (think Jughead or Shaggy) but Brian Trujillo makes him much more. Ditto Holly Robinson as CB’s sister, who manages to make a really silly performance art piece endearing.

Zachary Brounstein’s character, Matt, could be a stock villain, but in Brounstein’s hands, he’s also a confused kid, just as lost as the rest of the gang. Another tricky role is that of Van’s sister and CB’s best friend, played by Beth Wysocki. A cartoon premise to her mental illness might make her a caricature, but Wysocki makes her quirky and lovable as well as dangerously unstable.

Jacinta Lestone and Paige Ramsey play mean girls Trisha and Marcy. Again, they infuse roles that might be stereotypic with individuality.

The subject matter of this play is not only dark, it’s dark and scary. We may not want to believe that teens talk or act this way. And of course not all of them do. But the problems “Dog Sees God” addresses are all too real and all too prevalent. This play takes them by the scruff of the neck and gives them a good hard shake-right in the face of the audience. If profanity bothers you, try to get past it and see this play. High rates of teen suicide and some recently uncovered incidences of bullying have shed a spotlight on these issues in Los Alamos. But this is the tip of an iceberg that shipwrecks the lives of too many kids … you need to see this play!

“Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” continues at the Performing Arts Center, 1670 Nectar St. in Los Alamos through Jan. 28. Shows are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Jan. 22. The play is for mature audiences. Parents might consider attending with their younger teens.

Los Alamos Police Ofc. Joey Robinson was cast in the production but broke his ankle so watched Friday’s performance from the audience. His wife, actress Holly Robinson, center, plays CB’s sister in the show. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Cast and audience members celebrate a successful opening night performance Friday with cake and punch. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

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