Whatever happened to Charlie Brown and his “Peanuts” pals?
The White Plains-based New York Performing Arts Center, a youth theater in its second year, is presenting one scenario, in Bert V. Royal’s satire “Dog Sees God.”
The wholly unauthorized play, subtitled “Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” will be presented by a cast ranging from 17 to 25 at the Pulse Performing Arts Studio in Bedford Hills this weekend.
“Dog Sees God” takes the familiar Charles M. Schulz characters out of their comic-strip panels and finds them 10 years older, dealing with drug use, suicide, eating disorders, death and their own sexual identities.
We’re not in “Peanuts,” anymore.
Because of concerns over copyright infringement, Royal changed the names — Charlie Brown becomes “CB,” the piano-playing Schroeder is “Beethoven,” Linus Van Pelt becomes “Van” — but these are the characters kids grew up with, in the throes of their teen years.
“He warned me that it’s totally different from anything we’ve done,” she says. “We’ve done cute little musicals with kids.
“I liked finding out what happens to these characters, and it’s not what you would have thought would happen,” she says. “I like the twists.”
James says his vision of the show mines the material for its deeper emotions.
“It’s very much designed to be a comedy, but it takes on important issues,” he says. “There are so many deep and real situations that it felt wrong to make farce of it, to make it a joke. I said ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it the right way.’”
“It’s still funny,” Mastroberardino interjects.
Playing CB is 25-year-old Robert Tyc, a Valhalla High School graduate who is newly discharged from the Marine Corps for medical reasons. He has seen workshops of the production and appreciates James’ vision for the play.
“Everyone usually does it very ‘Peanuts’-like, even the costumes and the jokes, not serious,” Tyc says. “Playing up the jokes makes it callous. We’re doing it much more sympathetic, less ‘Charlie Brown’-like.”
Still, he’s recognizable as that loveable loser.
At one point, CB wonders: “Ever feel like you’re not a real person? Like you’re the product of someone’s imagination? Like people laugh whenever you fail?”
Good grief! That’s what it’s like to be Charlie Brown.
“Dog Sees God”
Where: A New York Performing Arts Center production at the Pulse Performing Arts Theatre, 196 Route 117 Bypass Road, Bedford Hills.
When: 8 p.m., Aug 13; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Aug. 14; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Aug. 15.
Tickets: $12, general admission.
Note: Due to the mature theme of the production, no one under the age of 14 will be admitted without a parent/guardian.
Photos by Joe Larese/The Journal News: Top, Eva Mangone as C.B.’s sister and Robert Tyc as C.B. rehearse “Dog Sees God” at the Pulse Theater District Aug. 9, 2010. Bottom, Devon James and Annamarie Mastroberardino.