To acquire wisdom, one must observe

‘Dog Sees God’ contemplates dark, but very relevant themes

The Brandeis Players delivered an astounding performance Thursday, March 10 with their premiere of the renowned play, “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.” Produced by Dahlia Kushinsky ’17 and directed by Carly Chernomorets ’16, this production was comprised of a widely talented cast and crew, bringing to life the story of troubled high school boy as he copes with the loss of his beloved dog.

“Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead ” is a play written by Bert V. Royal, and is unofficially recognized as the “unauthorized parody” of the comic strip “Peanuts” created by Charles M. Schulz. Each of the characters of the play corresponds to a character of the comic, such as the main character, CB (Charlie Brown), or his friends Van (Linus), Matt (Pig-Pen), Beethoven (Schroeder), Tricia (Peppermint Patty) and Marcy (Marcie). CB’s sister is understood to be Sally, and Van’s sister represents Lucy. However, these people are no longer the innocent childhood characters featured in the Peanuts strip; instead they have been taken from their simple roles and made into symbols for the societal vices that create hatred, pain and isolation in adolescents of this generation. This play touched upon almost every sensitive topic one could possibly incorporate into a two-hour performance, such as physical violence, self-harm, eating disorders, sexual assault, incest, bullying and suicide, as well as other themes such as sexual identity and substance abuse.

All of these matters are intricately wound around the life of CB, played by Dylan Hoffman ’19, who also doubled as a sort of narrator for the play, allowing the audience insight into the mind of CB as he makes commentaries on his relationships with the other characters. After the loss of his dog, which we presume to be Snoopy, CB inquires after all of his friends as to whether there exists an afterlife, particularly for pets. From the beginning, this play takes on a very philosophical nature, though the crude language at times may seem to mar the depth of meaning behind the character interactions, but which also serves to place the events in a startlingly modern and realistic light. CB’s friend, Van, played by Otis Fuqua ’19, is portrayed as a “stoner,” yet he still retains the sharp insight reminiscent of his corresponding character, Linus, offering level-headed advice to both CB and Matt, while also providing a bit of comic relief for the audience.

However, I believe that there was one actress in particular whose performance truly excelled in this play, and it was Lilia Shrayfer ’18 in the role of Van’s sister (Lucy). In this twisted parody of “Peanuts,” Lucy is in a mental hospital after she lights a “little red head girl’s” hair on fire. She is labelled a pyromaniac and psychopath, and with the skillfulness of Shrayfer’s acting, one can truly believe in those identifications. Even confined to the small space behind the cage prop, Shrayfer is able to express the broad range of personality in her character, from flirtatious, fierce, caring, relaxed and even to wild, with the manipulation of her strong voice, vivid facial expressions and perfectly matched motions as she speaks and interacts with CB. Shrayfer’s performance was certainly memorable in the already eye-opening production.

As the Brandeis community has so recently lost one of its members from one of the tragic themes presented in “Dog Sees God,” there was discussion of postponing, and even cancelling, the show entirely. However, in the Director’s note, Chernomorets and Stage Manager Ben Astrachan ’19 decided that this play may do more service to the community by providing a start for dialogue that may help prevent occurrences of grief and loss to this magnitude in the future. In the closing of the note, they write, “It is our duty to confront the issues that are very clearly plaguing our campus and our world, and we hope that this production will open a door for conversation around these tumultuous topics.”

Though this play may be sensitive for many at this time, or anytime, “Dog Sees God” is a remarkable production, and its cast and crew have succeeded in creating a memorable and meaningful addition to Brandeis theater. This show will continue through March 13 in the SCC theater.

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