Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: A Timeless Tale with an Iconic Gang

photo courtesy of Yanina May Photography
There are scripts that define generations through its subject matter. For the 21st century, one of those timely scripts is Bert V. Royal’s sensational Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead. Inspired by Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts”, the story transporting the gang to high school, a place where today’s problems and fears are confronted firsthand.
In The Blockheads’ production of the instant modern classic, story took center stage as rehearsal cubes, some with chalk drawings, represented everything. A bare bones production truly allows for Royal’s story to shine. This is a piece that can be done minimally but it requires every other aspect to be perfect. This production didn’t quite reach that. Director Lucio Nieto, who also plays the central character CB, had many hats to wear with many aspects to keep an eye on. By choosing a simple approach, there’s little room for error. The transitions need to be crisp. The staging needs to be precise. Fluidity from scene to scene keeps the pace moving. Transitions and scenic element can be created during CB’s monologues so he can enter the scene through a light shift rather than exiting the stage just to reenter. Despite some technical errors, cleaning up the transitions would allow for the momentum of Royal’s script to be maintained, the highlight of this production.
photo courtesy of Yanina May Photography
The ensemble that made up the Dog Sees God was almost perfectly cast. One of the stars of the ensemble was Joan Jamison as the shape shifting CB’s Sister. Jamison’s timing was exquisite. From comedic to dramatic, Jamison nailed it every time. Her costumes, different and hilarious each time, added an extra layer to her brilliance. Josh Meredith as Beethoven portrayed the bullied teen with true sentiment, nicely representing many who have been in his situation. The conflict of self and identity shined even against Michael Finnigan’s bully Matt. Though a little more of a fight and push toward Matt’s own internal conflict could have been boosted. Finnigan’s Matt was just enough loveable goon that you could have been swayed to empathize with him and his Pigpen backstory. Lucio Nieto’s CB was sugary sweet and someone you wanted to be best friends with. Nieto’s animation and joy in the scene with Louise Oliver’s as Van’s Sister was quite wonderful. Though the staging detracted from the strong scene, Nieto and Oliver’s chemistry and timing brought some of the biggest laughs of the night. Shanna Bess and Alicia G. Lopez as Marcy and Tricia respectively had equally great harmony as team double trouble. Patrick Taylor as Van strayed away from the typical stoner archetype, a choice that allowed him to make some strong choices.
This production of Dog Sees God was filled with immense heart. And for that, it’s beautiful and relevant work that should be discussed. But with an abundance of productions of Royal’s play, it needs to stick out. A little more pizzazz would have been an added benefit to the top notch performances.