Boldly venturing out on a limb once more, Theater Undreground (TUG) presents Dog Sees God, which — though funny in its own right — is best appreciated if you’re familiar with the popular comic strip Peanuts (from which emerged great Christmas and Halloween TV specials and numerous other products and spin-offs). Is DSG a parody, a loving homage, or both? I favor the last, for though the thinly disguised characters act in ways that Charles M. Schulz’s never would, all are portrayed, even in their outrageousness, with a kind of affection. At least that is true in this production. In the play, the kids have all grown into dysfunctional high schoolers, and the action takes place after the death of the beloved dog of the main character, CB. This event causes CB to question everything about his life, including his relationships, his recent actions, and life itself. Some of the characters aren’t willing to think that hard, and therein lies the play’s conflicts. Which is not to say the play is dismal and deep — at least, not all the time. It veers time and again between comedy and tragedy, and where it ends up … Well, you’ll just have to see it to find out.
With a strong script, Theater Undreground’s cast really stands out in this one. Five of the eight characters are repeat TUG players, and the newcomers really “bring it” as well. There are no slack performances here, and the dialog really sizzles at times. The comic interplay between longtime TUG members Anne Dowd-Fisher (Tricia) and Katelin Stack (Marcy) is especially funny. While those two are largely comic relief, many of the cast — Amoreena Karmis (CB’s Sister), Tim Vance (Matt), and Frank Padour (Van) — veer nicely between comedy and pathos. Donny Meyers (CB) and Michael Schwan (Beethovin) turn in more introverted, moody performances, while Kelly Waterman (Van’s Sister) shows up for some comic relief and well-dispensed advice.
Though loosely based on a comic strip, this show is not for children. It contains very harsh language and adult scenes and situations. (Things high school kids often engage in, but seldom talk about in front of “adults.”) There’s something in this play to challenge (or offend) nearly everyone. It does, however, really bring out the best in Theater Undreground and shows what they can do with a solid if-not-entirely-unpredictable script.
Dog Sees God is edgy, but still accessible. It will make you laugh, gasp, and perhaps even cry. Catch it while you can. It only runs February 19, 25, and 26, 2011.