Through Sunday, Oct. 1
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, Raleigh

It’s a mistake to consider Dog Sees God a satire of Peanuts. Rather, Bert V. Royal’s dark comedy is an extension of Charles Schulz’s beloved creation. At the comic strip’s creative height in the sixties and seventies, before corporate interests homogenized it, Peanuts exposed the anxieties of childhood in a modern age. With disarming humor, Schulz probed the fully formed needs and half-formed neuroses of children anticipating the injustices of the adult world. Peanuts portrayed “a society as complete and as dangerous as Balzac’s”, as critic Christopher Caldwell observed.

In Royal’s rewarding update, a decade has passed, the gang is in high school, and the social drama has clearly escalated. After the sudden death of the strip’s one escapist character, Snoopy, angst-ridden protagonist CB (Leo Brody) seeks solace among his peers.

Yeah, good luck with that. Tricia and Marcy (Anna Brewer and Anabel Butler), adolescent versions of Peppermint Patty and Marcie, are self-centered party girls, while CB’s drama-geek sister (an impressive Liz Webb) changes personalities as often as she changes clothes. The Pig Pen character (William Booth) is a chauvinistic germophobe who’s bullying the Schroeder character, gay pianist Beethoven (a remarkable Bryan Bunch). Ironically, the only real empathy comes from a teen version of Lucy (a sparkling Hannah Woodcock) and a stoner Linus (Liam Yates).

Director Pete Comperatore, who clearly knows the dynamics of a modern high school, propels this strong ensemble beyond the script’s occasional shortcomings to fully explore the trials of adolescence until a heartfelt ending brings compassion to this high school hell. Good grief, indeed.