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Eliza Dushku

Eliza Dushku - "Dog Sees God" Play - Nynewsday.com Review

Michael Kuchwara

Sunday 18 December 2005, by Webmaster

REVIEW: CB, Gang Still Unhappy in ’Dog’

NEW YORK — Ever wonder what happened to your favorite comic-strip characters after they grew up — or at least got a little older? Bert V. Royal conjures up just such a situation in "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead," his inventive, raunchy yet weirdly loving homage to a certain nebbish of a young man named CB. Fans of "Peanuts" and its creator, Charles M. Schulz, will know who he is.

In what is billed as an "unauthorized parody," Royal’s hero is coming to grips with the death of his beagle, who had to be put to sleep after mangling a little yellow bird. Although still wearing short pants, the lad is now suffering from teenage angst, among other things. And pondering such profound questions as "What do you think happens when we die?"

"Dog Sees God," a hit at the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival, has now been remounted with a new cast and by a new director (Trip Cullman) at off-Broadway’s Century Center for the Performing Arts. And while the characters’ names don’t correspond to those in Schulz’s classic strip, don’t worry. You will be able to figure them out.

Royal’s play gives us Van, a serious pothead who once was so desperate for weed he smoked his blanket. His older sibling, identified only as Van’s sister, has ended up in a padded cell, with the words "The doctor is in," scrawled on the wall. She has become a pyromaniac. After all, she set fire to the little red-haired girl.

Then there are two blond babes with the names of Tricia and Marcy, slutty Valley Girls who are hot for Matt, a hunky, homophobic jock who, to compensate for his pigsty childhood, now has major issues with germs.

CB’s bossy baby sister is an on-edge performance artist, given to dressing just like the bride of Frankenstein. We also have Beethoven, a piano-playing nerd confused about his sexuality and the object of major taunting by the rest of the kids, except CB, of course.

There is a strong moral center to "Peanuts" and that sense of morality sneaks into "Dog Sees God." despite a parade of slacker gross-out jokes that would not be out place in a trashy summer teen flick.

The cast is anchored by Eddie Kaye Thomas who brings a sweet gravity to the thoughtful, troubled CB. And there are hysterically funny portraits by Kelli Garner and Ari Graynor as the airhead chicks who wear the shortest skirts and tightest tops and have the loosest morals.

Eliza Dushku projects a sexy self-knowledge as CB’s old nemesis, and it’s fun to watch her reminisce about the good old days of their childhood when she would try to psychoanalyze him.

But the others are equally fine, too: America Ferrera as CB’s goth sister, Ian Somerhalder as the studly cleanliness freak, Keith Nobbs as the stoner supreme and Logan Marshall-Green as the wistfully melancholic Beethoven whose relationship with CB causes quite a stir.

Designer David Korins has created a simple, yet vivid comic-strip setting that resembles the panels of Schulz’s cartoon world.

With Royal’s play, we are a long way from "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown," the gentle musical celebration of "Peanuts" that was such a hit in the late 1960s. We’re celebrating the gang here, too, only the festivities, despite all the genuine laughter, are a little more jaundiced, a little sadder and maybe more worldly wise. After all, unlike their counterparts in the comic strip, the kids in "Dog Sees God" are beginning to grow up.