For the millions of fans who daily followed the “Peanuts” cartoon by the late Charles Schulz, the “Charlie Brown Christmas” television special and the musical “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” a New York playhouse organization is working on a stunner that portrays the characters as homosexuals.
Members of the Actor’s Workshop in Ithaca, N.Y., are scheduled to be on stage at the Risley Theater this weekend with “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenaged Blockhead,” which is described as a “parody” in hope of avoiding legal entanglements with the owners of the rights to the images of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and the rest of the crew.
The workshop describes the play as “powerful” and says it “explores the real pressures teenagers in this country face when they refuse to follow the pack, and the consequences for those who do follow the pack.”
“This play is ultimately about being different and specifically what it is to be a gay high-schooler in America,” the workshop said. “We’re proud that our first production of this kind will address issues that effect (sic) so many young teenagers across this country.”
The play is described as being a “hit” at the New York International Fringe Festival with honors from homosexual activist groups.
At Federal Review, a reviewer noted that, “Somewhere, the late great Charles Schulz is rolling over in his grave.”
“Schulz, the creator of the much-loved Peanuts comic strip (and a devout Christian), probably never envisioned a day when his characters would be appropriated for a ‘satirical story’ about teenaged homosexuals,” the review said.
Schulz actually was active in several Christian churches during his lifetime but also wrote later in his life about an obligation to each other and to the world.
The play begins with a character “CB,” who is struck by the death of his dog, Snoopy, who ate his bird pal, Woodstock.
He’s launched, according to the review, “on a journey of not only searching for the answers to where his beagle has gone now that he’s dead, but who he, himself, is now that he can’t escape the overwhelming grief he feels pervading his soul.”
In an interview with the Ithaca Times, Workshop director Eliza VanCort said the play resonated with her.
“When I read this play, I simply loved it. It shines a light on all the messiness of life but offers hope that things can change for the better,” she said.
The production, staged with actors as young as 17, also includes “CB’s sister,” Sally, who has gone “goth;” “Van” in the role of Linus, now a pothead; “Beethoven,” as Schroeder, an outcast because of sexual abuse by his father; the partying pair of Peppermint Patty and Marcy; “Matt,” as Pig-Pen who now is a neat-freak; and “Van’s Sister,” who as Lucy has been institutionalized.
The play previously has appeared at a SoHo Playhouse.
In a column in the Ithaca Journal about the play, 19-year-old Dayna Jorgenson wrote of her participation, “A teenager who feels he can’t form the relationships he wants to with his peers – and I’m talking romantic relationships specifically – that can have a huge effect on how that person forms relationships as an adult.”
“Teenagers need to feel comfortable with their sexuality and they need to feel that they can form the relationships they want to in their lives,” she wrote.
Ithaca reviewer Jim Catalano said the play reveals who the characters become as teens.
“And in many cases, it’s quite a shock,” he said. “Without giving too much away, let’s just say the play involves a love triangle, bullying and other adult themes that go far beyond any animated holiday television show.”