In some ways it is very difficult to review “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” which went up this weekend in the Adams Pool Theater from March 27 to 29. On a cultural level, theater is in a hard place, competing with the more accessible and less ephemeral visual media of film and television, and inviting inappropriate comparisons across disciplines, but this fact is not the problem that arises in the evaluation of “Dog.” Rather, it is the fact that director kat baus ’15 and a superb cast have put on a show of rare beauty in what is arguably the best student production to date this year. “Dog Sees God” was not merely great student theater, nor even great theater; it was great Art.
The show started with a good foundation with a wonderfully subtle text. The years have not been kind to Charlie Brown and the gang. Charlie Brown, now known as CB and played by Colin A. Mark ’17, is writing once more to his pen pal about his high school life. Things are tough: Peppermint Patty, now going by “Tricia” (Samantha A. Garin ’17), and Marcie (Aislinn E. Brophy ‘17) are both good-time girls who sleep around in their endless pursuit for love; Pigpen (Alexander J. Iascone ’16) has shed his old moniker for his real name, Matt, and his old habits of dirtiness for obsessive hygiene and drug-fueled sexual fixations; Schroeder, nicknamed “Beethoven” (Geoffrey G. Binney III ’17), is a gay virtuoso spurned by the old crowd. Linus (“Van,” played by Skip L. Rosamilia ’17) is a pothead, Sally (Nina C. Sapers ’17) is a Wiccan. Lucy (Danielle T. Lessard ’16) is in a mental institution. To kick off the dramatic action, Snoopy dies of rabies after having slaughtered Woodstock, setting CB into one of his characteristic existential funks.
While the text itself is superb, its darkness could have easily spiraled into an immature angst-fest had it not been for the excellent work of the actors. Every single performance was superlative, without a single false note. Two performances were especially noteworthy: Rosamilia’s Van, who was played with a sweetness and humor that balanced the play’s generally gloomy atmosphere, and Sapers’s Sally, whose dramatic monologues were delivered with a delicacy that heightened their content without ever dipping into absurdity. Iascone’s wild, bigoted Matt is also remarkable, since this actor has previously been cast primarily in comic roles. He exhibited marvellous control over his facial expressions and body language; for example, when he wakes up after a three-way with Tricia and Marcy. He managed to maintain a certain wry humor balanced with a seriousness and disgust appropriate to the situation. His success here suggests that he has great potential for casting as a more serious character.
Baus’s directing, beyond bringing forth such virtuoso performances from the actors, enhanced the overall effect of the production with a skillfully designed set and excellent blocking. A piano’s noticeable but understated placement conveys visually the tortured Beethoven’s looming presence behind the dramatic action of the play. A prominent soundtrack, featuring especially the work of Neutral Milk Hotel, underlined the psychological states of each character while avoiding the pitfall of overwhelming the action. The one questionable decision was to precede the play by having CB sit and sprawl in various positions of abject misery until the beginning of the performance, which resulted in an unintended comical effect. However, this flaw was quickly forgotten in the scheme of the general excellence and, indeed, genius of the production itself.
Rarely does any piece of art unify concept and execution in so harmonious a way as “Dog Sees God.” This show was a true reminder of why people should still care about theater as a medium. “Dog” brought to the stage a parade of human frailty and beauty, a genuine and unsentimental representation of the neighborhood kids we all knew in high school and their weaknesses and foibles. A reviewer can only wish that every play achieved the heights of brilliance attained here.
V-Day: Faking It
The Bottom of the Dog PileEven families have hierarchies—I mean look at the Kardashians. My family hierarchy has always been clearly defined. My mom was the boss with the wallet, my brother just bossed me around, and I was the bottom of the bucket: the chump of the family. Then we got a dog.
Engagement: William N. W. Forster ’13 and Racheal S. Epstein
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