Good Grief! Murder, Intrigue in ‘Dial P for Peanuts’
Story and Photo by Anissa Rowe
Even if you did not grow up reading the “Peanuts” comic strip or watching the animated TV versions at Halloween and Christmas, you’re probably at least familiar with Charlie Brown, his beagle Snoopy, know-it-all Lucy and the rest of the gang.
Two instructors in GCU’s College of Liberal Arts, David Hayes and Michael Kary, collaborated last semester as playwrights for the production “Dial P for Peanuts,” set to play Ethington Theatre on Thursday and Saturday. Performances begin at 10 both nights, and admission is free.
Kary has a more classical flair, a contrast to Hayes’ late-night-theater, “guignol” style. Still, the two seem to have found a perfect balance.
“We both had totally different ideas on what the play was about,” Kary says. “But the first thing we did was write the poem. Once we saw how easily that came together, it’s been that way ever since.”
As a huge “Peanuts” fan, Kary says he ripped open the Sunday newspaper every week to read the strip. He watched the television specials and owned the books.
“The ‘Peanuts’ characters were responsible for mediocrity in our country,” Hayes says. “Charlie Brown was a celebrated hero, although he was a failure in every episode and comic strip. By the time I had grown up, I realized my mediocrity was just that, and I wasn’t being praised for it.”
According to Hayes, the “Peanuts” crew was the moral compass for the 1960s and ’70s. Which could be why this Agatha Christie-type murder mystery and comedy is bound to create an uproar of irony.
“I think humor is funnier the darker it gets,” Kary says. “The lighter you take something that’s serious, the funnier it is.”
The catch is that the “Peanuts” kids all have grown up.
“The gang gets an invite to a secluded island, where one by one they get knocked off, in obviously comedic ways because that’s how we roll,” Hayes says. “Like all the other times, Charlie Brown (played by COFAP student Brad Beamon) has to prove himself and help solve the mysteries before it is too late.”
Beamon admits he didn’t intend to try out because of his involvement in “The Frogs,” but after reading over the script a couple of times and praying about it, he decided to give it a shot. He also did not expect to get the lead role of Charlie Brown. “I’m more like him the more I do this!” he says.
“The hardest part was keeping the childhood characteristics and personalities alive in grown-up versions,” Hayes says.
The cast is a fun, spunky group, much like the “Peanuts” characters themselves.
“Everybody wanted to be in this show. It’s something so different from what they’ve ever done before,” says COFAP student and cast member Robert Mohle.
“It’s our job to provoke emotional response. How and what kind is up to the audience,” Hayes says.