The best part of theatre­going is the pleasant surprises it can offer you, and they don’t come more pleasant or more surprising than Dog Sees God, now playing at Six Degrees.

What seems to be a comedic deconstruction of the famous Peanuts cartoon characters turns out to be one of the most interesting and moving plays out this year, with some absolutely stunning performances.

The fun comes first. CB (a.k.a. Charlie Brown) is a misfit adolescent mourning the loss of his beloved beagle, who recently died. We meet Van (a.k.a. Linus), who is now a stoner, Van’s Sister (a.k.a. Lucy), who has been institutionalized as a pyromaniac, Matt (a.k.a. Pigpen), the raging homophobe, etc.

There’s a lot of dark laughter watching the innocents of our youth turn into the kind of slackers who fill their milk cartons at lunch with Kahlua and vodka, but just when you’re wondering where the joke is going, author Bert V. Royal turns it all around.

CB finds himself falling in love with Beethoven (a.k.a. Schroeder), the school homosexual who is the butt of all jokes and violence. And suddenly, faced with real emotions, these empty vessels fill up with love, hate, violence and anger.

Director Lezlie Wade manages the transition skilfully and, by the end, there were totally unexpected tears rolling down my face.

Jake Epstein is brilliant as CB, a bunch of nerve endings searching for a place to settle. Epstein is so beautifully open and honest that you go with him on every step of his journey. Equally impressive is Ben Lewis as Beethoven, summoning up every odd-boy-out you’ve ever known in life, but giving him sudden depth, strength and resilience when necessary.

Adamo Ruggiero is wonderfully sly as Van and understudy Lindsey Clark was totally impressive as Van’s Sister, blowing me away with her energy and wit in her one wonderful scene.

Mike Lobel and Siobhan Murphy overdo their hateful caricatures a bit, but not enough to cause any serious damage. Dog Sees God is a quirky show in an offbeat location, but if you make the journey to see it, you’ll be more than glad that you did.