Dog Sees God a nutty twist on Schultz' classic

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead opens in classic Peanuts style: a boy in a yellow tee-shirt sits alone, writing to a pen pal who he knows will never respond. However, the nostalgia this scene evokes is only momentary, and it is immediately clear that all is not well in Charles Schulz's comic-land. In Bert Royal's play, the 1950s characters have finally grown into teenagers, and they have not made this transition well.

While this premise is fairly simple, it gives rise to a darkly funny and emotionally complex full-length play, a more challenging production than the usual student-run one-act plays. However, under the direction of junior Brian Balduzzi, the cast and crew impresses the audience in this insightful drama.

Chris Blasting stars as Charlie Brown, or "CB," a popular kid who falls from grace when his faithful dog dies. Despite the multiple difficulties that have changed his character, Blasting incorporates the spirit of the classic Charlie Brown into CB, keeping the play grounded and complimenting the other characters nicely.

Antonia Laruccia plays CB's sister, an insecure girl struggling to find an identity. Without sacrificing her unique character, Laruccia is able to keep the audience laughing with unforgettable facial expressions. Equally amusing is "Van," the stoner shell of Linus van Pelt, played with excellent comedic timing by John Snyder.

No play about teenage angst is complete without the popular girls, and in Dog Sees God, Peppermint Patty and Marcie fills these roles. Cathy Bijur and Alyson Spennacchio play "Tricia" and "Marcy" wonderfully and are especially funny in several drunken scenes in which they relentlessly mock Frieda (the girl with "naturally curly hair").

While comedic characters are sure to remind the audience of numerous teen movies, more tragic characters provide shades of American Beauty and Dead Poets Society. Played by Marc Cataldi and Kate Starczewski, respectively, Beethoven (Schroeder) and Van's sister (Lucy) are absolutely heartbreaking, especially in their interactions with Blasting.

Eric Dostal rounds off the cast as Matt, a homophobic, germophobic bully who flies off the handle at any mention of his former nickname, Pigpen. Dostal gives an exceptional performance, producing both pity and hatred in the audience.

Dog Sees God will be performed in the Black Box Theatre on Friday, Oct. 26, at 4 p.m. General admission is free.