Dog Sees God: JU’s Most Traumatic Dramatic Reading

Bryan Jones

Photo courtesy of Brett Durda

For 50 years, the young and lovable characters of Charles Schulz’s comic strip “Peanuts” delighted and entertained readers, remaining one of the most popular comic strips of all time.

On Saturday, Feb. 4, Jacksonville University’s own theater honor society, Alpha Psi Omega, presented a dramatic reading of Bert V. Royal’s play, “Dog Sees God.” In this unauthorized parody, Royal examines what might have happened to the cast of “Peanuts“ had they been allowed to grow up. It is a dark and disturbing slant on the story, and can be classified as a “black comedy.”

The show opens with possibly the most depressing thing, the death of Snoopy. Although never specifically named, when CB, Charlie Browns moniker in the show, talks about how his dog has died, all the audience can picture is the lovable black and white mutt with a big imagination and a bigger heart.

Apparently, Snoopy has had to be put down because he contracted rabies and killed Woodstock, his little yellow bird friend.

Sean Segerstrom, the director of the show, also played the lead, CB. Obsessed with death after Snoopy’s passing, he opens the show by reading a letter he has written to his pen pal, explaining how “everything went to hell” after Snoopy was put down.

We are introduced to the teenage versions of the “Peanuts” cast we used to know and are subjected to their acquired “grown-up” habits. With all their neuroses and existential quandaries throughout 50 years of comic strips, it isn’t hard to speculate that the cast might turn to drugs and alcohol. That being said, it seems a little forced, as every single character has his or her own addiction.

The first new character we are introduced to is CB’s sister, interestingly enough referred to only as CB’s sister in the program, played by junior Elyn Wolf. She is a smoking, death-goddess worshipping mess of teenage hormones and confused identity. Comfortable with his identity is “Van,” the grown up version of Linus, played by Ryan Manning. He is so much the ultimate pothead, it’s hard to believe he ever was anything else.  His “profound” statements seem to lend an air of gravity to the show, despite their meaningless babble. He believes he could be “holding the secrets of the universe” in his hand, but in reality he is just perpetrating a stereotype to attempt to connect to a certain portion of the audience.

The most believable change comes from “Pigpen,” played by Brian Trumble, now called Matt. He now has an adamant hatred of his childhood nickname and is a germaphobe. He exchanged an unclean outside with a dirty mind. Now an unabashed pervert, he advises CB to use the death of his dog to persuade girls to sleep with him. Adding some of the foulest language to the show, he is often abrasive and disgusting much like his younger counterpart, just in a different fashion. As Peppermint Patty put it, “a virtual cloud of dirt followed him.”

Peppermint Patty, or Tricia, played by Leanna Brown, and Marcy, played by Ashley Jones, are now stereotypical teenage girls with an unapologetic lack of self-awareness or personal self respect and a deep love for drinking vodka at lunch time.

CB, morose as ever perhaps because of his journey through puberty, questions his friends of mortality and the afterlife.  Unsurprisingly, their teenage minds have trouble grasping the concepts and their answers are vague and unhelpful. Still looking for answers, CB turns to Beethoven, or “Schroeder,” played by Patrick Regis.

An outcast at the school for being a suspected homosexual, he spends his time alone playing the piano. Hearing music that reminds him of Snoopy, CB stops by to listen and subjects Schroeder to a very morbid monologue. Beginning with a heated argument between the two, the play is then carried through a surprising and confusing series of events that finally crescendos into a depressing finale that still leaves the audience with a bit of hope for these lost and lonely characters.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the black comedy, as Lucy, played by Elaine Tyson, stated, is that CB finally does something out of character. He stops caring about what other people think and does something for himself.

Overall, the play was quite good. It was a dramatic reading and was narrated. The only set pieces were chairs, and the costumes were all black. Despite its simplicity, the Phi Iota chapter of APO did a fantastic job of presenting Royal’s play. The dialogue, although a little contrived and forced, just led to the overall feel of the darker side of “Peanuts.”

Nick Boucher, the president of APO and the presenter of the show, put it simply:

“It’s really like a rollercoaster. It’s full of thrills and chills.”