By ELIZABETH CLEMENTE, Contributing Writer
If you think you know everything about Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts” gang, think again.
Mask & Dagger’s latest production, Bert V. Royal’s “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” is a drama based on the Peanuts comic strip. Opening April 30 in the Strafford Room, “Dog Sees God” gives audiences a glimpse of what the characters might be like as teenagers.
The play centers on C.B. (played by junior Aaron Bencks), a high school student grappling with self-identity issues after the death of his dog. Along with C.B., “Dog Sees God” chronicles the struggles his friends and sister face as they navigate the ups and downs of high school.
The production is student directed, with junior history major Joe Juknievich at the helm. After stumbling upon the script in high school, Juknievich says he was forced to put it aside due to inappropriate content. He was hopeful he could return to it in college.
“This [play] crossed my mind because they’re highschoolers, but a lot of the social and mental health issues they have are really relevant to college communities,” Juknievich said. “I think the material just suits college-aged actors very well.”
As far as mature storylines go, Juknievich says he believes assigning real-life problems to beloved characters makes the show intriguing.
“I really liked the idea of taking something that people were really familiar with and comfortable with and flipping it on its head,” he says. “I thought it was a powerful piece with a powerful message.”
Mask & Dagger began working on “Dog Sees God” in March; it is the group’s third production of the year. With less than two months between auditions and opening night, the eight-person cast of “Dog Sees God” is forced to work on what Juknievich calls a “really condensed schedule.”
“It comes together really quickly,” he said.
Aside from Bencks, Kayleigh Kane is also a key cast member, playing opposite Bencks as C.B.’s younger sister.
“It’s a really unique show,” says Kane, a zoology major. “Even with the way the script is written, it’s a different style of theatre; it’s very experimental, it’s different than what people are used to. I’m just most excited to see the reactions from people.”
Kane also served as the “movement director” on “Dog Sees God,” an element Juknievich says Mask & Dagger has never focused on before.
“Unique to this show is the movement component which we’ve never really done before,” Juknievich said. “That was all [Kane].”
According to business major Bencks, having the opportunity to play a character like C.B. has been an interesting departure for him.
“It’s just something very different from anything that I’ve done before, which is always something that’s exciting,” he said.
Bencks also says he appreciates the serious message of Dog Sees God.
“What I find really interesting is that it’s [about] all these young people in high school, but it has such a mature message,” Bencks said. “I think that’s something that might catch the audience a little off-guard.”
Dog Sees God will run from Thursday April 30 through Sunday May 3 in the Strafford Room. Thursday, Friday and Saturday night’s shows begin at 7 p.m.; Sunday’s show is a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets can be purchased through both the MUB Ticket Office and website. The link can be found on the Dog Sees God Facebook page. The price of admission is $5 for students, $8 for non-students.