The American Heartland honors a Good Man.

Peanuts Gallery 

The American Heartland honors a Good Man.

The appeal of Charles Schulz's "Li'l Folks," who grew into the world-renowned Peanuts characters, has always been rooted in the fact that their traits aren't exclusive to children. Charlie Brown's inferiority, Lucy's superiority and Linus' philosophical musings show up at America's water coolers every day. As Linus tells the round-headed kid at the beginning of American Heartland Theatre's You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, personality is pretty much set by the age of five.

Adapted and scored by Clark Gesner, the show received Schulz's blessing when it opened a four-year run in New York's Greenwich Village in 1967. It is this version rather than the 1999 Broadway revival that the Heartland mounts with James Andrew Wright as the beleaguered title character. And with the spirited work of Debra Bluford (Lucy), Shaun Roberts (Linus), Erik Gratton (Schroeder), Lauren Stanford (Sally) and Ken Remmert (Snoopy), the show is a lark; it's as warm and fuzzy as Linus' ubiquitous blanket.

The production consists of quick sketches derived from the four-panel comic strip. (After several of them, you begin to imagine the characters boxed in, just as they're laid out on the funny pages.) When songs intervene, they are either funny send-ups of Lucy's grandiosity, as in "Queen Lucy" and "Little Known Facts," or sweet salutes to the basic innocence of the characters' lives, as when Snoopy sums up his perfect life by singing Not bad/Not bad at all.

Director Harry Parker moves the actors into places where they're as comfortable in their characters as they are in Georgianna Londre's costumes. Bluford is especially amusing when she surveys her peers regarding her own crabbiness quotient. Roberts is a charmingly guileless Linus, and Remmert, in white overalls over a white turtleneck, is both devoted and nonchalant as Snoopy. Keith Brumley's set is a Mondrian-inspired grid painted in sherbet colors -- the perfect metaphor for a show that is as bright as a Baskin-Robbins.

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