CB’s dog just died, and to him it matters a lot. His dog’s been with him since he was eight, and now that he’s practically a grown-up, his dog must have had been really old. As CB copes with the loss of his pet, he tries to find comfort in the company of his Sister and friends. But neither offer any help. CB’s Sister is in the middle of an identity crisis; Matt, his best friend, is a compulsive asshole; Van is always stoned; while Marcy and Tricia are just starting learn how to become self-absobed bitches. Then, there’s Beethoven, an estranged member of the gang who eventually decided to separate himself from the group. As CB tries to cope with his loss, he reconnects with old friends and finds answers to questions he never even intended to ask in the first place.
Twin Bill Theater’s version of Bert V. Royal’s DOG SEES GOD: THE CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD is a modest production with surprisingly massive themes. Director Steven Conde creatively choreographs symbolic blocks to establish a common milieu, while hinting a few satirical social insights here and there. Notice the lighted faces of the silent actors in each scene’s foreground and backgrounds. They freeze in their darkened lights while holding mobile phones – unmoving and hypnotized. If that’s not saying something, I don’t know what is.
DOG SEES GOD is a parody of a familiar classic comic literature – Peanuts. It starts relatively light, and grows darker as the plot and its characters unfold. Here, Royal takes the same premise as Robert Lopez and James Marx’ AVENUE Q where familiar childhood characters have grown up to face newer challenges and bigger worlds. However, this time, Shultz’ characters go through pressingly darker issues like sexual abuse, drugs, violence, preference, and death.
In THE PEANUTS MOVIE (2015), Charlie Brown asks Snoopy, what he’ll do without him. DOG SEES GOD answers this question. As CB starts to accept the loss of his dog and confidant, he begins to see other things and we join him in his journey. CB seeks for a new friend to fill the void his dog left him. This parody argues that even in a generation of cool gadgets, pampering privileges and wider connections, we still see ourselves trapped in darker circumstances, brought about by our prejudices and unlikely choices.
On the other hand, the material’s western slant somewhat makes this production virtually far-fetched. Though CB and his gang may have been going through an understandably difficult phase, one may still argue its universality as it reaches out to newer audiences and cultures. DOG SEES GOD is a parody of a well-known comic classic for children, primarily targeting a set of social perspective – American children. Royal goes further with his material and presents a deeper discourse on character what-ifs and circumstances. He is quite faithful to the original source, though unauthorized, and managed to present uncommonly poignant connections to its origins. The darker side of yellow, that is. No wonder it gathered recognitions and awards during its time. However, as Royal’s new characters develop, they bring with them a culturally boxed representation of a particular milieu. New audiences, Filipinos for that matter, may find a cultural disconnect at some point.
Still, by simply looking at the entire picture and the material’s pathetic-to-nostalgic-to-tragic feel, DOG SEES GOD presents a closer look at other cultures; their young and their hidden challenges. We, too, may have those same issues now, for all we know.
Twin Bill Theater offers a good option for audiences in this year’s Finge Manila. This parody may present an amply boxed discourse of a specific society and may offer quite a detached picture of a society we only see in books and media, but alongside it is a whispered caution. It whispers to us to find time to examine who we are and see if we, ourselves, are on our way to the same darker path.
PHOTOS BY: Mr. Jaypee Maristaza