Thursday, May 5, 2011

You're a Good Man

Dog Sees God:
Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (2004)
by Bert V. Royal

A boy recently came to live down the street from me.  He's had a tough life, but things are better for him now.  He plays the piano like your friend.  I often hear his music wafting from an open window, where a small yellow bird sits.  Sometimes I cry when I hear it.  But mostly I smile.  He found a dog who likes to sing along.  He takes good care of the dog.  When we talk, he tells me of a person he knew from where he used to live.  Someone very special who means more than anything to him.  A person that reminds me of you.  I apologize for not being there for you before.  And I'm not sure that I'll be able to write you again.  Just know that there's someone out there thinking about you.  Someone who has a vested interest in your success.  How I wish I had the opportunity to meet you.  Maintain in your heart all that makes you who you are.  You are a good man.  Your Pen Pal, CS.

I've always identified with good ol' Charlie Brown.  I've played him twice on stage in two different musicals - You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and its sequel Snoopy!!  Just a couple of nights ago, I even got some gentle ribbing from friends who noticed me wearing a bright yellow polo shirt.  Charlie Brown and I have much in common - an unfortunate pessimistic streak and a frequent "woe is me" lovable loser frame of mind.

There's a "new" play about the Peanuts gang - it's remarkably offensive, jaw-droppingly obscene, and WONDERFUL.  It also tops the short list of plays I would kill to direct.  Bert V. Royal's Dog Sees God (a palindromic reference to the death of Snoopy at the top of the play) imagines the familiar Charles Schulz characters at high school age - now called CB, CB's Sister, Van, Matt (who has definitely "cleaned up" his act), Beethoven, Marcy, Tricia, and Van's Sister - I think you can figure out who's who.

It was tremendously difficult to find a quote that would be appropriate to post publicly on a blog.  It starts with Charlie Brown describing the salivating, rabid death of Snoopy and, by extension ... 'nuff said, Woodstock.  It's "in-your-face" theatre at its best and though I gasp reading it, I can't help but admire its craft.  Here's the description from the back of the script, just to give you an idea:

"When CB's dog dies from rabies, CB begins to question the existence of an afterlife.  His best friend is too burnt out to provide any coherent speculation, his sister has gone goth, his ex-girlfriend has recently been institutionalized, and his other friends are too inebriated to give him any sort of solace.  But a chance meeting with an artistic kid, the target of this group's bullying, offers CB a peace of mind and sets in motion a friendship that will push teen angst to the very limits.  Drug use, suicide, eating disorders, teen violence, rebellion and sexual identity collide and careen toward an ending that's both haunting and hopeful."

What's most striking about the play is the ending (the quote above) ... after an hour's worth of raunchy fun and surprising cruelty, there is this quiet and redemptive moment in which CB finally receives a letter back from his long-term Pen Pal - and it turns out to be none other than a familiar friend with the initials CS.  I'll leave you to "get" that ... a masterful touch by the playwright (who hails from Jacksonville, Florida, by the way!).

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