Yes, Charlie Brown, you're still a good man. But in Bert Royal's darkly funny parody of the Peanuts comic strip, the gang is all grown up, raising hell and dealing with some very adult issues. CB (Stephen John Williams) has lost his famous beagle to rabies and is questioning the meaning of life. Van, aka Linus (Brett Fleisher), has become an affable stoner who has smoked his beloved security blanket, and his sister Lucy (Dana DeRuyck) has been incarcerated in a psych ward for setting fire to one of her classmates. Tough guy "Pig Pen" now goes by the name of Matt (Brian Sounalath) -- a germaphobe with a trainload of emotional baggage. Most of what transpires entails watching the screwball antics of these foul-mouthed sex-obsessed hellions, which renders a goodly share of laughs (the "Peanuts" dance at the opening of Act 2 is a real hoot). But Royal's script isn't all about teenage angst and hijinks. The strip's original cartoonist, Charles Schulz, never backed away from controversy. Honoring that legacy, Royal's play explodes with physical and emotional abuse, and CB's coming out of the closet results in a tragic finale. This all unfolds neatly on Rebecca Patrick's set --two swings, a graffiti pocked wall and bleachers. Director Mike Dias would do better with sharper pacing, but he's skillfully balanced the light and dark elements. Rounding out the excellent cast are Lisa Valerie Morgan, Collins Reiter and Mikayla Park. Lounge Theater, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., Jan. 31, 7 p.m., thru Feb. 6. (562) 293-8645. An Urban Theatre Movement production.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 31, 7 p.m. Starts: Jan. 22. Continues through Feb. 13, 2010