How to describe the Guild’s new production of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead?
Think of it as a comedic cross between a Charlie Brown special and the Breakfast Club, viewed with teen-dysfunction lenses instead of 3D glasses.
It was a great night out at the Guild. There were a lot of laughs, a bit of nostalgia about watching Charlie Brown specials on CBC North when I was a kid, and more than a few deep thoughts to keep chewing on the next day.
I won’t spare the spoilers since - unfortunately for you if you missed it - the play closed last Saturday.
Bert Royal’s screenplay highlights how tough it is to be a teenager by taking the characters you recognize from Peanuts and putting them in a modern high school. It is immediately obvious we’ve left Charlie Brown Christmas Special territory when the play opens with CB and his teen-goth sister mourning the death of Snoopy, who had to be put down after getting rabies and eating his little-yellow-bird friend Woodstock.
The characters in the play go by different names than the Peanuts characters, presumably since the owners of the Peanuts copyright weren’t keen on their comic strip being associated with teen sex and marijuana. But the characters are immediately recognizable and, to keep it simple, I’ll go by the names you’re familiar with.
I especially enjoyed seeing the next generation of Whitehorse actors hit the stage. As much as I like seeing my own high-school vintage on the community-theatre stage (I won’t be forgetting James McCullough taking his shirt off during a saucy scene in Chicago any time soon!), it was inspiring to see current high school actors put on such vivid performances.
Brooke Fusick, a current F.H. Collins student, was hilariously alarming as hard-drinking and sex-crazed party girl Peppermint Patty. She and her buddy Marcie (Kayleigh Poelman, also from F.H. Collins) delivered their one-liners with perfect timing, pausing only to top up their chocolate milks in the school cafeteria with vodka.
Ben Soprovich projects a zen-like calm as stoner-philosopher Linus. Kayla Dewdney also does a fine job as Lucy, balancing the need to give sage advice to CB while demonstrating the reason why CB can only get that advice by visiting her in a secure psychiatric facility (she set the Little Red-Haired Girl’s hair on fire).
The play revolves around CB and Schroeder. Indeed, the surprise kiss between CB and Schroeder is another Guild image I won’t be forgetting. I was thinking that Kevin Ray, a Whitehorse newcomer, was doing a good job playing the slightly puzzled straight man that I remembered from Charlie Brown specials. Then the word “straight” took on a different meaning.
Schroeder is played by Loughran Thorson Looysen, also a high school student new to the Guild stage. I’ve seen him on other stages before, and he has matured impressively as an actor. His character is a childhood friend of the others, who is now shunned and bullied by them.
Ben Moffatt faced the challenge of acting the role of Pigpen, a homophobic jock, when he witnesses CB and Schroeder kissing. Since he was as scary as one of my classmates when another came out of the closet back in the day, I think Moffatt passed the test.
Schroeder’s suicide after Pigpen’s homophobic assault brought a profound silence over the audience. I think everyone was thinking about what they did or didn’t do in situations in their own pasts. When CB protests that he never bullied Schroeder, the latter reminds him that he didn’t do anything to stop it either.
The weakest part of the play is perhaps at the end, when the characters turn to the audience and give anti-bullying messages. It seemed more like a government-mandated empathy workshop than drama.
But it is an important message, so why not deliver it with a sledgehammer?
Kudos to director Clinton Walker and artistic director Anthony Trombetta for finding such a superb cast and putting on such a riveting show. I’m looking forward to the Guild’s next production. If you don’t have your tickets for Twelfth Night yet, you should buy them now.
Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He won this year’s Ma Murray award for best columnist. You can follow him on Channel 9’s Yukonomist show.