Review: Dog Sees God (Echo Productions)

Photo of Dog Sees God posterToronto’s Echo Productions presents a grown-up Peanuts gang in the play Dog Sees God

The Peanuts gang has grown up in Echo Production’s Dog Sees God Confessions of a Teenaged Blockhead playing at the John Candy Box Theatre. This dark dramedy/parody, playwright Bert V. Royal presents the changes from childhood to adolescence wrought by life happening.

As a play, it’s a paint by the numbers coming out piece, but in the hands of director Victoria Fuller and an amazing cast, it manages to overcome any shortcomings.

CB (Thomas Duplessie) has a terrible, no-good, and very bad year that kicks off with the death of his dog. Struck with morbid curiosity, he confronts each of his friends about death. CB’s Sister (Courtney Lamanna stepping in for Sheri Anne Godda) is a drama nerd unable to choose a religion; his best friend Van (Stephen Mashalidis) is now a stoner; the former Pig-Pen, Matt (Adrian Yearwood), is a clean-freak jock with a chip on his shoulder; the inseparable Marcy (Sara Jackson) and Tricia (Olivia Clarke), are now the cool girls.

However, it’s a fight with his former friend Beethoven (Eric Rich) that challenges CB’s identity and his relationships.

Good grief, do I think the play is a cliché. There are some good lines, some great ideas, but man, Dog Sees God is such a sacharrine piece of fan fiction that wants to be deeper than it is. I think that there are some tedious characterizations of popular female characters that feed into everyday stereotypes. And I’m not even touching on the eye-rolling nature of the climax.

Needless to say, in lesser hands, I’d be very underwhelmed. Which is why this production deserves a look. Well-cast and well-directed, Echo Productions has made an unexpected treat.

I don’t know if casting can get better than Duplessie who embodies sulking awkwardness. The character is trite but there’s something charming in his performance that just warms up the entire show.

By far his best scene (and quite frankly the tour-de-force moment of the entire play) happens when he visits Van’s Sister (Lamanna, again) in the hospital. These two actors are electric together, playing off one another without breaking a sweat.

Lamanna just exudes a chaotic quality that makes you applaud her questionable tendencies to light people’s hair on fire. It’s never tragic and the way Duplessie and Lamanna manage to keep it straight and meaningful is the power of this particular production.

As for supporting characters, while I didn’t like (and had some major problems with) the characters Matt and Tricia, Yearwood and Clarke were excellent. Yearwood is a gold mine of hilarious facial expressions, especially in the lunchroom bits. Clarke, playing off the equally wonderful Jackson, absolutely nailed a petty and vindictive character with a darkly comic glee.

I mean it would be so easy to let the dark humour serve the feel-good message. In other words, this could easily be a show with no bite to its bark but Fuller makes sure it’s a sharper and edgier tone that lands. It doesn’t always work but when it does, everything comes together hilariously.

For her staging, Fuller put together vignettes, such as a choreographed dance party scene, that play smart and include blink-and-you’ll-miss-it homages to the cartoons. It’s these little details that really bring the work to life and make it infinitely more fun.

Dog Sees God is a play that’s easy to get and I can definitely see it appealing to a wide audience. What’s been created is something as satisfying as that moment you finally get to kick that football your friend keeps pulling away.

Details

  • Dog Sees God runs until November 26th, 2016 at the John Candy Box Theatre (99 Blue Jays Way)
  • Shows run November 25th at 9:30 and November 25th at 8:00pm
  • Tickets cost $20 or $15 with a Second City Student Card
  • Tickets can be purchased at the box office prior to the show, online here, or by phone at 416-340-7270

Photo of CB (Thomas Duplessie) courtesy Echo Productions