Children experiencing life together was what Charles M. Schulz had in mind when he created his 1950–2000 comic strip "Peanuts," which revolved around the trials and tribulations of lovable schnook Charlie Brown and his mopey trip through childhood. Based on Schulz's iconic characters, this dark dramedy by Bert V. Royal offers a rather twisted variation on the traditional "Peanuts" story lines by fast-forwarding the gang into high school, where they tango with modern-day teenage issues—including marijuana, suicide, boozey threesomes, and sexual identity.
Emotionally affected by the death of Snoopy, the sexually confused Charlie Brown character, known here as CB (Timothy Miller), ponders the question of where pets go when they die. CB attempts to discuss this with his peers, but, unfortunately, they are too self-absorbed to pay him any mind. And how could they not be? Matt (Paul Dietz), an adaptation of Pigpen, is a sex-crazed, homophobic germophobe. Van (Matthew L. Middleton) is a weed-smoking Linus interpretation who also gets high smoking the ashes of his famed security blanket. Drunken mean sluts Tricia and Marcy (90210-friendly Crystal Castillo and Katherine Ko) are a Paris-and-her-BFF pairing derived from Peppermint Patty and Marci. Van's sister (the wonderful Emily Lehrer), inspired by Lucy, has ended up in a mental institution as a result of her pyromaniacal ways. All this winds up with CB making out with the also sexually confused Schroeder character, called Beethoven (Carlo Maghirang), and the aftermath of violence and homophobia that follows.
Director Jon Cortez makes a noble effort to raise this production above Royal's sophomoric and unimaginative concept, an achievement he does not pull off. More often than not, the fresh, young, and unremarkable cast appears to be working on scenes in an acting class, aiming for big laughs with dialogue like, "You're a homo, Charlie Brown!" Standing out is Lehrer, whose performance remembers to take its source character's personality into consideration.
It is possible that immature teenagers could find Dog Sees God as hilarious and moving as Royal probably wanted it to be, but first it would have to become cool for today's teenagers to bypass Transformers and delve into the L.A. theater scene for new incarnations of old-school "Peanuts" characters.
Presented by and at the Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. July 17–Aug. 23. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m. (877) 620-7673. www.dogseesgod.wordpress.com.