Bert Royals Peanuts-inspired comedy reunites some familiar folks from the popular comic strip for some high school fun and misadventure. C.B. (Joseph Porter) is filled with doubt and dread after the death of his famous beagle, and begins to puzzle over whether or not there is a heaven. His identity-challenged sister (Andrea Bowen) offers more ridicule than sympathy or insight, so who better to ask than Van (Jaden Leigh, who even looks like Linus), who unfortunately has smoked his famous security blanket and frequently hits the bong. C.B.s high school crew includes seductive meanies Tricia (Christine Lakin) and Marcy (Lauren Robyne), and bully boy Matt (Nick Ballard), who, despite his tough-guy, hip-hop demeanor, is deathly afraid of germs. And just when things become over-the-top goofy, a dark cloud settles over the crowd when Schroeder (Wyatt Fenner) embroils the friends in a dustup over sexual preferences. True to the spirit of the cartoon, Royals script skillfully delves into some weighty issues, such as self-love and loathing, identity crisis, sexual politics and bigotry. Even more remarkable is the wonderful balance maintained between the whimsy and the social commentary. Royal poignantly captures the angst, folly and raging hormones that surge through teenagers. Even an ugly event toward the end of the play is glossed over with a dose of scintillating humor. Nick DeGruccios exceptionally fine direction leads to sharp, well-modulated performances. Tom Buderwitzs set design, consisting of a barrage of poster, cartoon and album cutouts, also deserves praise.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Starts: June 7. Continues through July 20, 2008