An agitated young man in a yellow shirt hunches over a sheet of paper on the desk before him. As his pen makes its way across the page, a voice over the speaker system narrates the disturbing letter he composes.
So begins Dickinson Community Player’s latest production, “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.” Written by Bert V. Royal (who also wrote the screenplay for “Easy A”), the play hits the fast-forward button on Charles Schulz’s iconic “Peanuts” and transposes its grade school posse into a high school setting, complete with sex and drugs. The familiar tunes of the Vince Guaraldi Trio play during scene transitions as our protagonist travels across various settings, including his backyard, the school cafeteria and even a house party.
“I look at this show as a dark comedy,” said Sydney Hewitt, the show’s director and a junior majoring in psychology. “I think it’s pretty funny, but it also has some very serious parts.”
For copyright reasons, the characters have all been rechristened with names that are similar, but legally distinct from their original counterparts. In the place of young Charlie Brown, Royal created CB, who retains his proclivity toward the philosophical even after undergoing a major psychological shift. He’s played by Jonah Lipton, a freshman majoring in mathematics.
“His years of being the butt of every joke has gotten to him,” Lipton said. “The one time he really needs his friends, they really fall short.”
Charlie Brown’s annoying younger sibling Sally has been renamed to CB’s Sister. She’s played by Anna Cronin, who replaced her trademark flouncy blue dress with tight pants and a black skeleton shirt.
“When she was younger she was really overdramatic. She’s still kind of like that, but she’s also trying to find a religion and struggling with her identity,” Hewitt said.
Another character that undergoes a radical transformation is Pig-Pen, reincarnated as Matt and portrayed by Spenser Bivona. Instead of leaving clouds of dust in his wake, he now produces clouds of scented mist from an aerosol can.
“He’s a germaphobe. He’s sort of OCD and cares so much about what people think of him,” said Bivona, a freshman majoring in anthropology.
Matt’s self-consciousness is strongly tied to his status as a closet homosexual, which surfaces when he bullies Beethoven, a recreation of Schroeder, who is openly gay.
“He has anger built up from him being afraid of who he his,” Bivona said. “Beethoven is completely okay with himself. Matt is afraid of what he would become if he came out. He sort of uses Beethoven as a mirror image of what he would be.”
The play feels familiar to anyone who has attended high school and the actors use this fact to their full advantage. “Because we’re all college freshmen, sophomores, even juniors, we all remember what high school was like. That’s still fresh in our heads,” Lipton said. “And in my opinion, the play’s truer because of that.”
“Dog Sees God” premieres at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 2, in the Chenango Champlain Collegiate Center Multipurpose Room. Additional shows are at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 3 and Sunday, May 4. Tickets are $3 at the door.