Eliza Dushku of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, and Eddie Kaye Thomas from American Pie star in Dog Sees God, a spoof of the Peanuts gang.
Youre pretty cool, Charlie Brown
By Scott Harrah
Back in 1967, Charles M. Schulzs beloved Peanuts characters were celebrated in the light and fluffy musical Youre a Good Man, Charlie Brown, a show that became a community theater staple before it was revived on Broadway in 1999. Nearly four decades later, an Off-Broadway unauthorized parody of Charlie Brown and friends shows a darker, funnier, and more human side of the Peanuts gang, played by an all-star cast of Hollywoods hottest young actors. Dog Sees God, a hit at last years New York International Fringe Festival, is a scathing satire of the famous comic strip. To avoid copyright infringement and also show that the gang has matured a bit, playwright Bert V. Royal cleverly avoids using some of the characters actual names. However, we all know that CB (Eddie Kaye Thomas from the American Pie films) is supposed to be Charlie Brown.
As the story opens, CB is mourning the death of his beloved beagle. Although CB never mentions their names, we learn that Snoopy contracted rabies, went berserk and ate his dear old bird buddy Woodstock, so the poor dog had to be euthanized at the pound. CB holds a funeral, but the only one who shows up is CBs sister (America Ferrera from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). His chain-smoking, misanthropic Goth chick sibling suggests that they both pray to a pagan death goddess to bring the dog back to life. This level of lunacy and absurdity sets the tone for most of the show. The thin plot centers on CB consulting all his old palsLinus, Peppermint Patty, Pigpen and Schroederand asking them what death means to them. While the premise may sound morbid, Royal keeps everything fun and hilarious by sending up the eccentricities of his characters as they make the awkward transition to adulthood. The Linus character, Van (Keith Nobbs of Phone Booth fame) is a Buddhist pothead who recently smoked his famous blanket. Lucy (known here as Vans Sister and played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Eliza Dushku) is a pyromaniac whos been locked away in a mental institution. Tricia (played with aplomb by Kelli Garner from The Aviator) and Marcy (Ari Graynor from Mystic River and The Sopranos) are both scantily clad, trampy cheerleaders who spike their lunchtime milk with booze. The Schroeder character here is called Beethoven (played by Logan Marshall Green from TVs The O.C.) and is a tortured, picked-upon pianist whos struggling to come to terms with his sexual orientation. Ian Somerhalder (from TVs hit drama Lost) plays the homophobic jock Matt and bullies Beethoven into a perpetual state of fear and misery. Much credit should go to Trip Cullman, who brilliantly directs this marvelous ensemble cast.
It would be unfair to give away too much of the story, but theres a budding gay affair between two of the characters that has everyone in shock. Bert V. Royal stabs the satirical needle into not only Schulzs comic strip but also the entire teen angst genre. Dog Sees God pokes fun at everything from the teen classics Clueless and Fast Times at Ridgemont High to many of the silly, adolescent TV shows on which some of the plays actors star. Although the characters are typical teen stereotypes, and the juvenile jokes about getting stoned, drunk and laid are certainly sophomoric clichés, most of the humor is witty and intelligent, and there are many great one-liners. Still, Dog Sees God loses some of its panache toward the end when good grief! the show takes a confusing tragicomic turn and becomes too serious for its own good. Although a parody of the Peanuts characters is probably 30 years overdue, anyone whos ever loved Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang will enjoy watching them come of age (and see some come out of the closet) in this trenchant spoof.