SOU play looks at teenage Charlie Brown
Imagine Charlie Brown and all the characters from the beloved "Peanuts" comic strip as late teens, dealing with the gritty issues of adulthood — including the death of Snoopy — and you have Bert V. Royal's "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead," opening in the Center Square Theatre at Southern Oregon University.
Life no longer is about Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick, then deceiving him and snatching it away. Snoopy no longer is lying atop his doghouse, deep in charming, ironic thoughts. The world has grown up, as grow up it must.
Lucy has been committed to a nut house, where most of us believe she belongs, for setting fire to the hair of the Little Red-Haired Girl. Linus is a stoner. Sally is going through her Wicca and gangster phases. Charlie Brown or C.B. — they can't legally use the old comic-strip names — is still the lovable loser and, being a sensitive chap, is in the midst of a long re-examination of his life after the death of a loved one, his faithful Snoopy.
"It's a cool piece," says Kyle Haden, a professor of theater and the production's director. "C.B. is examining the big questions of life for the first time. He's talking to friends, making connections with people, causing conflict, re-examining life with new eyes. He even finds love, sort of."
The play may sound fun, and it is. But it's for mature audiences, not children, Haden says, though Charlie Brown still is "the lovable loser everyone relates to and roots for."
Joshua Simpson, who plays Charlie Brown, says his iconic character has the same universal appeal of the comic strip because "bad things always happen to him, but he fights his way through and is positive. He gains everything back and learns how to do things for himself."
It deals with real-life issues, such as drug use, the absence of a Creator and the issues of death that we all have to face, Simpson says.
"It's an emotional roller-coaster ride, but you walk away with a very positive message," he says.
And, yes, Charlie Brown gets his old optimism back — and there's a moment when he finds a strong connection with another human being and learns you can find love, but that love is not that simple.
SOU's cast includes Gavin Douglas, Sarah Mitchell, Erin O'Connor, Corey Porter, Alyssa Rhoney, Kate Torcom and Andrew Yabroff.