Review by Terry Gaisin
Six years ago, an off-Broadway musical about the Viet Nam War went mainstream. SHERIDAN’s theatre arts faculty brings all the pathos, transformations, and forced maturity that the war effected. The play is emphasized by song and dance; thus, the dialogue is transitory but exacting and severe. The phrase ‘DOGFIGHT’ usually refers to an aerial battle between fighter planes, but is occasionally used as the male counterpart to a struggle between women. It also represents a cruel U.S. Marine game in which ‘jarheads’ on leave pool funds to award whomever brought the ugliest date to a party.
The language is peppered with four-letter words., the on-stage action and pace is hectic. Director Ann Hodges’ cast expend an energy that underscores not just the psychological but emotional changes that occur over a 24-hour period of leave before shipping out. Opening with a returning vet, the Greyhound Bus becomes a military transport and the time frame converts back four years to the squad’s last Stateside leave. The audience learns of the relationships between the young soldiers and especially three whose names coincidently begin with the letter “B”. Their individual backgrounds; levels of adulthood; and life experience are overtly revealed & exposed like an onion being peeled. Hodges imbues each of the three with totally different psyches and allows the portrayers to emphasize not only the differences, but the rationale for their affinity for each other.
The major character is Eddie Birdlace. Portrayed by Drew Plummer, this young man still maintains a scintilla of moral fiber and empathy. Plummer has a wide vocal range and as an actor can display a social backbone. But still must follow the influences of his cohorts. His pick-up date is a rather ingenuous waitress named ‘Rose’ and Georgia Bennett had her role interpretation down pat. Their duets; moments of poignancy and contrapuntal dialogue have credibility and can evoke a sense of déja-vu among most members of the audience…except those that were BMOC, or Homecoming Queens. The couple have a longish number ‘Come to a Party’ that leads to Rose’s powerful ‘Nothing Short of Wonderful’ that will connect with just about everyone who is paying attention to the lyrics.
Plummer’s two sidemen are Jared Klein as ‘Bernstein”, and Dave Comeau’s “Boland”. The latter brings a most amazing intensity to his portrayal. One would swear that he’s an instinctive ‘method’ performer. One can see Strasberg/Adler/and even Meisner in his role implementation.
Hodges touch can be seen in her changes of focus; flow and tempo. There is very little that is subtle, but rather in-your face (& in your gut) punches. The costume changes reflect situational changes as well as evolutionary progress over the weekend as well as the 4-year deployment. Realistically, the language is peppered with four-letter words; The familiar militaristic slogans “Semper Fi etc.” and watchwords of the anti-war movement all hit below the belt … even now. Unfortunately, the piano background occasionally overpowers the lyrics. Given the poor acoustics of Sheridan’s Studio Theatre, Chris Barillaro & his upright probably can’t do much about it. The choreography by Stephanie Graham reflects not only the on-stage action but the mood being defined and emphasized.
The play is penetrating and passionate; the scenes are overstated for effect; and the overall impression is of an anticipated disaster. Spoiler Alert: the ending, thank goodness, is positive and optimistic. DOGFIGHT runs until Dec. 11th, curtain is 7:30pm
EDITOR’s NOTE: Our O.A.R. critique of Sheridan’s SHREK misprinted the ‘RAT number as Raccoons… OOPS. Let’s blame it on the costume’s tails!