Smoky air and chalk-laden walls set the scene for Dog Sees God, the first completely student-run production at Ramapo College. Colorful stringed lights hung above the unique set design in the quaint Adler Theater. The performance told the turbulent story of adolescents heavily implied to be the adult versions of "The Peanuts."
"It was fantastic, I was very moved. The soundtrack fit the show beautifully and the set was innovative," Ori Bensimhon said.
The beloved pet of the play's protagonist CB (Tom Kiely) contracts rabies and kills a friendly yellow bird, causing him to be put down,which fuels the transformation of the inquisitive CB. This event spurs questions for his friends and family about what happens after death and the existence of an afterlife.
The play beautifully paints the hardships and tribulations that are often part of growing up. It's funny and lighthearted, but it is also gripping and moving. Issues of death, love, homosexuality, bullying, sex and a myriad of other topics are covered with a no-holds-barred approach.
"The show is so real and genuine," Kiely said. "You can candy-coat a lot of things, but the reality is you can go through a lot of life and be happy, but something can come and change that."
The performance was so simple yet powerful; it was a potent dose of reality infused into a two-hour work of art. Those in attendance witnessed an earnest display of raw emotion that was nothing less than touching.
"There is a lot of ways to relate to this production because it lets people know the truth, and it was a huge challenge for everyone involved," said director Nick Walsh. "It was gratifying to see how the audience reacted."
Perhaps the most effective aspect of the play was the exceptional acting by a cast of dedicated individuals. Laughs were provided by the inane absent-mindedness of Van (Sean Dabney) while at the same time the nervous, unsettling anguish of Beethoven (Brian Petty) was deeply poignant.
Vanessa Rappa, president of the campus chapter of the theater honor society Alpha Psi Omega, discussed the creation of the project.
"We gave the students full creative control with faculty advisement that encouraged originality on a professional level," she explained.
The relatable nature of the characters as well as the plot made for an incredibly formidable act that left an impact on the audience. It was the kind of project that was directed and casted with care and took into consideration the importance of many of the facets involved with live theater.
The best part of plays performed in Adler Theater is that the actors are so close to the viewers, creating an intimate feeling that bonds the two factions in harmony. The performers are able to deliver directly to those in front of them, which makes the message more impactful to an engaged collection of onlookers.
"Ultimately it's a collaboration. My character wouldn't be the same without the rest of the cast," Kiely added. "It's incredibly amazing that it was a completely student-run production."
Adler Theater is no stranger to theatric excellence, which was further proved with the showing of Dog Sees God. For all those who missed it, shame on you.