Now in its second season, Prologue Theatre’s mission is simple: They want to start conversations. They will undoubtedly accomplish this with their take on Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, written by Bert V. Royal.
Remember all the quirky kids who made up the famous Peanuts gang of Charles Schulz fame? Well they are in high school now and the carefree days of Christmas trees and great pumpkins are decidedly over. The show opens with Charlie Brown, or for copyright reasons “CB” (Noah Schaefer), full of teenage angst and exploring the topic of death. He is holding a funeral for his dog, who met a violent and tragic end, attended only by his sister (Sophie Schulman), who simply can’t make a decision about who she is from one week to the next. The show unfolds one to two grown-up Peanuts characters at a time, charging headfirst into topics such as death, homosexuality, rage, stereotypes, jealousy, and grief.
First impressions are excellent — scenic design by Andrew R. Cohen is superb. He uses the entire space masterfully, allowing for multiple coexisting settings that never feel crowded and allow for seamless scene transitions. It’s too bad this wasn’t taken more advantage of, as some scene changes were unnecessarily long. With so many scene changes, this is a significant risk to pacing and audience attention. Luckily, sound designer/composer Navid Azeez delivers a riveting, often haunting, soundscape throughout to keep the audience in the moment. This is complemented expertly by lighting designer Cassandra Saulski, who clearly wasn’t deterred by what appeared to be a fairly limited grid.
Overall, the ensemble cast delivered. Lida Maria Benson as Van’s Sister is a force, needing only one scene to cement her fast-talking, lovable psychopath performance in the minds of the audience for good. Annie Ottati as Trica delights as an insecure mean girl, and Tiziano D’Affuso as Beethoven will positively break your heart. Jonathan E. Miot as Van is a clear audience favorite, delivering a slew of one-liners with infectious energy and comic precision.
Schaefer’s CB wasn’t always easy to follow, but this may be a function of the fact that teenagers themselves are a mixed bag of emotions at any given time, and is definitely a flaw in the script. CB starts quintessentially awkward, but then emerges as cool kid and even bully. Schaefer is nonetheless engaging and strongest when paired with D’Affuso. The two portray their tortured situation with sincere honesty.
Artistic director Jason Tamborini knows that this show can be, and often is, done as comedy, even parody, but chooses to approach the material as a drama. This is a bold, risky choice that will get mixed reactions, especially at the end which is at the precipice of melodrama. Whether or not audiences agree with his choices, he is guaranteed to achieve Prologue’s mission to get you talking.
Prologue invites you to join the conversation, and will hold talkbacks on various subjects after every Saturday matinee and online at their website. Their entire second season will be focused on the question, “Where do we look to find ourselves?” Despite the risks, Dog Sees God is worth your time and this is a company to keep an eye on.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission — no late seating, no readmittance
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead plays through November 3, 2019, at Prologue Theatre performing at Dance Loft on 14, 4618 14th St NW, Washington, DC. For tickets, buy them at the door, or purchase them online.