If Charles M. Schulz could see his beloved “Peanuts” characters in their teen years, he’d come across sex, drug abuse and alcoholism — at least according to Bert V. Royal’s comedy-drama “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” which will be staged by Youngstown State University Theater’s Blackbox Productions from Thursday through Sunday.
“Dog Sees God” reimagines the “Peanuts” characters as teenagers in high school who are dealing with issues that real teens experience every day. The main character, CB, is a take on Charlie Brown; he’s been struggling with his sexual identity ever since his beloved beagle died.
Fans of “Peanuts” should prepare themselves for some unexpected twists in “Dog Sees God.” For instance, Linus has been renamed Van, and he’s now the school drug addict. Pig-Pen, now known as Matt, has reinvented himself as a germaphobe, and CB’s sister, originally known as Sally, changes her philosophy on life four times during the play.
David Palmer, a YSU junior from California, directs the university’s production of “Dog Sees God.”
“CB tries to discover what happens in the afterlife after his dog dies,” Palmer said. “While attempting to find the answers, he finds his friends are [too] drunk, high, angry or crazy to really provide him with any comfort or answers.”
Palmer said he can easily relate to CB.
“Not only am I a gay man that came out in high school, but I was a bully as well,” Palmer said. “I have had those experiences with bullies not accepting me for who I was, and it was awful.”
Ashley Whited of Struthers, who plays the character of Marcy, said “Dog Sees God” reminds her of high school — a time during which she was struggling to find herself.
“I did things and acted a certain way to get the approval of my friends,” she said. “Half of the time, it wasn’t even worth it.”
Junior Matthew Malloy of Beaver, Pa., plays Van. Although the play may push some boundaries, it’s worth it, he said.
“It’s easy to tell people that this play is about messed up ‘Peanuts’ characters,” Malloy said. “It is used to get an inspiring message across about issues, such as suicide and drug use.”
Natalie Martzial of Boardman plays Van’s sister.
“My character is based on the ‘Peanuts’ character Lucy,” Martzial said. “She ends up being a pyromaniac locked up in an insane asylum because she burnt a girl’s hair off.”
Martzial said the play has a powerful message.
“For anyone who’s ever lost someone to suicide or knows someone that has been bullied, the show serves as a sense of hope that things can get better,” she said. “The play really embodies that it is never too late to extend a hand to someone who is feeling left out.”
For tickets to “Dog Sees God,” call the University Theater Box Office at 330-941-3105.