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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 21, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 42
What if Charlie Brown were Gay?
Arts & Entertainment
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What if Charlie Brown were Gay?

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead
Balagan Theatre
Through October 30


Ever wonder what the Peanuts gang might be like as grown-ups? What would those precocious eight-year-olds be doing or thinking now? Bert V. Royal conceived and wrote a kind of parody, first produced in 2004, that darkly answers this question in Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, being done by Balagan Theatre in a new space at ACT Theatre.

Remember Schroeder? The piano-playing one? In this play, he's called Beethoven (names have been changed to avoid direct legal infringements) and is shunned for being Gay. Except that he is not sure he's Gay, since he hasn't yet had sex. But the others are relentless in ostracizing and tormenting him. Pigpen in particular (here called Matt) exhibits such a deep antipathy that the only inference one can make is that he must also have Gay feelings and self-hatred. Matt also has become germophobic and obsessed with cunnilingus.

Charlie Brown's (here he's referred to as CB) little sister is pretty much goth, and is expressing herself in a one-person play about a caterpillar wanting to be a platypus; Van (aka Linus) has become a pot-smoking Buddhist; and Van's sister (aka Lucy) has been committed for setting the Little Red-Haired Girl's hair on fire!

In other words, they're all normal teens, just trying to figure out what they're going to be when they grow up!

The play starts with CB's dog dying after getting rabies and tearing apart the little yellow bird that was his best friend. CB (David Goldstein, who continues to find his inner young man with great effect, following a terrific turn in Jackie and Me at Seattle Children's Theatre) begins to write Pen Pal about that and his other friends. He doesn't know whom else to talk to, and the invisible Pen Pal seems distant enough to vent to safely.

The terrific cast of Harry Todd Jamieson (Van), Ben McFadden (Matt), Allison Standley (Tricia, aka Peppermint Patty), Amy Hill (Marcy), Libby Barnard (CB's sister), and Bobby Temple (the beleaguered, yet dignified Beethoven) keep their characters real and centered, as solidly directed by M. Elizabeth Eller. The script takes them beyond stereotypes of the cartoon characters and gives them real problems to struggle with.

Be warned that this is not a kid-friendly play. There is a lot of gritty language and talk of sex and drugs. Much of it is funny, especially at first, but toward the end, the threat of violence becomes real and not funny at all.

The main thrust of the play focuses on the distressing penchant of young, not-yet-fully-developed personalities to bully and categorize each other. At first, CB does not defend Beethoven from Matt's insults and threats. When Beethoven challenges him on that, and points out that they used to be friends, CB finds himself making a surprising choice to kiss Beethoven, either as an experiment or as a personal revelation.

A wonderful scene, almost outside of the rest of the play, is between CB and Van's sister when CB goes to see her in the hospital. Megan Ahiers plays a vitally interested and surprisingly supportive role when she hears about CB's actions (kissing Beethoven in front of the whole school). Though she might believably have wigged out, she instead lives up to her psychologist persona by understanding herself and CB better than most other kids their age.

It's probably not the bullying episode that Charles Schulz would have written, but it packs a wallop and makes the message very, very clear: bullying hurts, both the bullied and the bully.

For more information, go to www.balagantheatre.org or www.acttheatre.org, or call (206) 292-7676.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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