Dog Sees God distresses me, though probably not for the same reasons it seems to distress a lot of other people. I think there was some good in its basic idea, and it still holds traces of interest. The trouble is, they’re only traces: The central notion—jolting the sagacious tots of Peanuts 10 years ahead to see how they’d fare in a contemporary high school—is never really explored. What we get instead is a series of skits that suggest cartoon strips shoved onstage (though more like coarsened Garry Trudeau than updated Charles M. Schulz) until playwright Bert V. Royal starts to get nervous about the absence of a sustained story, and invents one that hardly seems to have any bearing on the characters he’s set in motion, and that he also barely bothers to make convincing. Asking people to pay Off-Broadway prices for such shallow, slovenly work just because a lot of raw talents with movie credits have been dumped into the cast hardly seems fair.
It’s especially annoying because Dog Sees God deals, or rather, fails to deal, with fairly big issues for high schoolers: drugs, violence, homophobia, death. Many youngsters will want to see it because of the non-household-word names involved, and will come away thinking that incoherence and vapid sloppiness are the hallmarks of playwriting, and that loud, one-trait presentation is the standard currency of stage acting. Don’t count on much theatergoing in their future. Keith Nobbs and Logan Marshall-Green do excellent work as the characters who used to be Linus and Schroeder; some of the others show signs of ability. Trip Cullman’s staging keeps the noise moving at a steady clip. But the script stays resolutely in two dimensions: Eight panels and turn the page is all it’s worth.