Sunday, February 4, 2018

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

Dog Sees God 

By Bert V. Royal
Directed by Michael Bradshaw Flynn
Playing at the Matthew Corozine Studio Theatre
357 West 36th Street #202
New York, NY
Performances: Feb 2, 3, 4 & 9, 10, 11 - 2018
All shows at 8:00 p.m.

Every once in a while, I come across a theatrical production that is so powerful, it lingers in my mind for days afterward. It’s usually while doing a simple chore, that aspects of the show will creep back into my thought process and force me to reexamine my life, goals, actions and their consequences. Such was my reaction to Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead by Bert V. Royal, directed by Michael Bradshaw Flynn, and presented at the Matthew Corozine Studio Theatre. This award winning play was originally produced for the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival and then again in 2005 Off-Broadway. 

During a 90 minute performance which zooms along with lightening speed, we are introduced to the Peanuts characters created by Charles M. Schulz, but they are grown up...almost. Now in high school, all of them have become more of what they were and are each struggling to find meaning and purpose in their lives. They wrestle with self-discovery, bullying, abuse, addiction, self-identity, love, rejection, and ultimately, death. 

Cast of Dog Sees God   Photo credit: David Gazzo
Cast - Starting with front row: Kevin Martinez and Autumn Guzzardi. Second row: Danielle Sue Jordan, Levin Valayil, Genvieve Johnson and Haulston Mann. Third row: Andrew O'Shanick and Sam Morales. Kevin Martinez plays CB (Charlie Brown). Although the character and Kevin portraying him, has a full range of emotions to explore and he does so beautifully, he’s ironically the straight man to the zany, insanity, whirling around him. 
Kevin Martinez
CB is probably the trickiest role. He tethers us to the show, he’s the audience’s connection to the play. He is our eyes, ears and hearts. And Kevin does an excellent job. Another stand out performance is given by Levin Valayil, who plays Beethoven. 

Levin Valayil
Not only does Levin play Chopin and Debussy himself on stage on the piano, but his portrayal of Beethoven, who is tortured emotionally and physically, is so exquisitely acted. I hesitate to say he underacted the role, which I’m sure many others less professional would choose to overdo. Not here. In fact, all of the performances are spot on. Without any warning, they can break your heart and then in an instant force you into gut busting laughter. That’s hard to do, people. Bravo to the actors, writer and director.

The director, Michael Bradshaw Flynn, has done a masterful job of creating a magical dance for 8 characters, set upon a tiny stage and it works. And the simplistic set magically transforms from school cafeteria to the outdoors to a raunchy party scene in one of the kid’s homes. And again, simple but so effective lighting by Shelby Lorea and costumes by Madison McGhee.
Cast, crew and producers.   Photo credit: David Gazzo
Bert V. Royal has written an extraordinary play that seems to suspend time and yet the piece is timeless and ahead of its time. I caught a line in the show, “I promise that things get better.” It gets better. Sound familiar? Again, this was written back in 2004 if not earlier. 

For those who don’t know the Peanuts characters you’ll still relate to the production. For those who do, you get the inside laughter and jokes pertaining to the Peanuts kids and their unique idiosyncrasies. Dog Sees God is clever, funny, irreverent, shocking, thought provoking and heartbreaking. But its clearest message is: Live and Love in the moment and never stop being your true self.
The only negative is that it doesn’t have a longer run.

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