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Review: Dog Sees God at Playcrafters Barn Theatre

Well, they’ve done it again. Playcrafters Barn Theatre has brought to the boards an edgy, challenging, and thought provoking script as its latest offering in its Barn Owl series aptly scheduled to coincide with National Pride Month.

The Off Broadway, critically acclaimed, award winning Dog Sees God by Bert V. Royal revisits the very thinly disguised characters of the “Peanuts” gang who are now in the throes of adolescent angst as they stumble their way through the bad choices of alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity to discover their OWN true identities. These are NOT the lovable characters of the comic strip.

Although renamed in the script, I’ll use their comic strip names here. Charlie Brown is now a closeted burly jock, his sister Sally is a Wiccan, Schroeder is severely bullied and openly gay, Peppermint Patty and side kick Marcie have morphed into homophobic, party-hard “mean girls,” Pig Pen is now a germaphobic abuse survivor, Linus is a Buddhist stoner, and his sister Lucy has been institutionalized for setting the Little Red Haired Girl’s hair on fire. The result is drug abuse, mental illness, homophobia, eating disorders and suicide.

Rather than a lineal plot line, we’re presented with a series of vignettes that begin with CB (Charlie Brown), writing a letter to his pen pal after a long hiatus. He’s in mourning and trying to make sense of the death of his beloved beagle. As he negotiates encounters with his friends and their underlying struggles, he comes to embrace his true self. It ends with a reassuring letter from his pen pal that his dog is being lovingly attended by the now departed Beethoven with whom he had a brief affair. The pen pal becomes that someone who will listen to him, no matter what, and never judge him for who he is or who he loves.

This talented cast is piloted by neophyte director, Jay Megan Sushka, who returns to the theater after a 10-year absence but displays the competency of a seasoned pro. Pacing, blocking, scene changes, and set design were expertly executed.

Stand outs in this highly competent cast include Adrienne Evans as CB’s sister who brings in a hysterical performance during her drama class and Cayla Odendahl whose unhinged rants as the pseudo-Lucy character during a visit from CB while at the institution were over the top – small part, but a BIG performance.

Warning: This show is “R” rated. In addition to subject matter there is liberal use of the “f-bomb” – more than necessary, in my opinion, but that’s the script.

Is this show uncomfortable? Yes, a bit. But that’s EXACTLY why you SHOULD go. These characters are merely seeking their authenticity in a frightening world.

Consider the title: DOG SEES GOD is a palindrome – the same forward as backward, much like a mirror image. As we witness these characters’ struggles, do we see ANY bit of ourselves OR our own insecurities?

When YOU look in the mirror, who do you see?

Dog Sees God continues at Playcrafters Barn Theatre, 4950 – 35th Avenue in Moline, this weekend, June 10 and 11 at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm.