‘Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead’ by Wolf Pack Theatre Company

What happened to the characters in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang when they entered adulthood? We find out in Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, written by Bert V. Royal and magnificently directed by William Dean Leary, Founder of Wolf Pack Theatre Company. This “unauthorized parody” of the enduring Peanuts comic strip is an engaging evening of theater, featuring a bucketful human darkness, with shady humor mixed in.

Michael Bertone as Van, Aliya Gardner as Patricia, Julia Smouse as Marcy and Chris Rios as Matt. Photo courtesy of Wolf Pack Theatre Company.
Michael Bertone as Van, Aliya Gardner as Patricia, Julia Smouse as Marcy and Chris Rios as Matt. Photo courtesy of Wolf Pack Theatre Company.

Every scene crackles with dramatic intensity. Full of angst, sorrow, verbal fire, and pathos, Dog Sees God draws the audience in and holds it enthralled to the end.

This is a play about jacked-up people. As Leary wrote, the play was “chosen due to its portrayal of several issues I’m passionate about: bullying, sexual molestation, and suicide.” This play is decidedly not He’s a Good Man Charlie Brown!

The play opens with Chris Galindo as CB aka a teenaged Charlie Brown talking about a funeral for Snoopy. The dark tone doesn’t let up from there: Van aka Linus (Michael Bertone, who shined in Wolf Pack’s Deathtrap a year ago, is a Buddhist stoner; CB’s sister (Alex Sands) is a goth girl, and Beethoven (the marvelous Jake Schwartz) is a piano-playing, high school loner.

There is a dynamite scene involving Julia Smouse as Marcy and Aliya Gardner as Tricia, two archetypal “mean girls” who spend much of their time in an unnamed high school cafeteria prattling on about people they don’t like. That duo’s acting made me hate Marcy and Tricia.

Gardner has recently appeared in Hairspray with Educational Theatre Collaborative. Smouse has sung at the French and Indonesian Embassies with the Washington Opera Society.

Michael Bertone as Van and Alex Sands as CB's Sister. Photo courtesy of Wolf Pack Theatre Company.
Michael Bertone as Van and Alex Sands as CB’s Sister. Photo courtesy of Wolf Pack Theatre Company.

Galindo and Jake Schwartz as Beethoven, have phenomenal scenes together; CB was the popular kid, and Beethoven, not so much. Their relationship takes a surprising turn that affects the story in a dark way. Galindo, recently seen in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, expresses CB’s confused angst. Schwartz brings empathy to Beethoven.

Chris Rios as CB’s friend Matt aka Pig-Pen is menacing in his hatred of anyone who isn’t considered “normal.” Sex-crazed and loud-mouthed, Matt is a thorn to everyone he comes into contact with. Rios and Sands have a few unforgettable, and verbally explosive scenes together. Rios is a resident choreographer at Lopez Studios Inc.

Katy Chmura as Van’s sister has a dynamic scene with Galindo, in which she relates her character’s craziness and makes introspective observations about CB. Chmura, always entertaining, was recently seen in Wolf Pack Theatre’s A Christmas Carol.

The show’s moods are set by Stephen Beitzell’s timely lighting. The set, designed by Leary, consists of several diagonal-to-the-house flats with pictures of the Peanuts gang on them.

Wolf Pack has five more productions due for the rest of the year, including Leary’s Ghostlight. Leary has become one of the most prolific directors and playwrights in the DMV. Dog Sees God is a cautionary tale about how not to grow up. This is a show for casual fans and lovers of the craft of theater alike.

Running Time: Two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead performed by the Wolf Pack Theatre Company plays through May 18, 2019, at the Taylor Street Theatre at the Cora B. Woods Center, 3601 Taylor St., Brentwood, Maryland. For tickets, call (240) 565-4144 or go online.