Dogfight Delivers Emotional, Political Punch (4 Stars)
By Michele Markarian
‘Dogfight’ – Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Book by Peter Duchan. Based on the Warner Brothers Film and Screenplay by Bob Comfort. Directed by Paul Daigneault. Presented by Speakeasy Stage Company at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, through June 4.
I have to admit, I was a little leery about seeing yet another musical based on a film – in my opinion, they just don’t translate well. But Paul Daigneault has assembled a truly talented cast who manage to flesh out the sometimes thin material and create an enjoyable, often poignant evening for the audience.
Dogfight is the story of three Marines and close friends – the three B’s, as they like to call themselves – Birdlace, Bernstein, and Boland. The year is 1963, and the men have one last night to raise hell in San Francisco before shipping off to Vietnam. Along with their fellow Marines, they perform the show’s most memorable (and hummable) number, “Some Kinda Time” with gorgeous harmonies and naïve jubilee. The foreboding that one feels for the men is palpable – Vietnam, at this point in time, seems to them a mere skirmish, one that once resolved, will result in ticker tape parades and gratitude for the returning soldiers who served there. To celebrate, the Marines decide to stage a “dogfight”, where everyone pitches in $50 to throw a party that they can each bring an unsuspecting date to. The man with the ugliest date wins the money.
Birdlace (Jordan J. Ford) comes upon a coffee shop, where he meets the earnest, overweight Rose (Alejandra M. Parrilla). He persuades her to be his date to the party, but has second thoughts once they get there and he realizes that he likes her too much to be cruel. Birdlace’s last night in the States is a test of loyalties – loyalty to this burgeoning relationship, or loyalty to his buddies?
Ford and Parrilla have a sweet easy chemistry, which contrasts nicely with the boisterous, sometimes menacing chemistry the men have with each other. Jared Troilo gives Boland an edge that works well with Ford’s pensive Birdlace and Drew Arisco’s nerdy Bernstein. As Rose, Parrilla rides a fine line between vulnerable and self-assured. McCaela Donovan brings down the house as Marcy, the take-no-prisoners prostitute that Boland sneakily brings as his dogfight date. The amazing Patrick Varner plays seven roles with remarkable distinction – Pete, Sargeant, Praying Drag Queen, Lounge Singer, Waiter, Big Tony and a Diner Patron. He’s hilarious.
Cristina Todesco’s set design balances the spirit of the play beautifully. Stark, with an upstage balcony, the space allows for set pieces to easily roll in and out – Rose’s bed, the coffee shop tables and chairs, two tall staircases, a bar. It doesn’t distract one from the story, but augments it, as does Jeff Adelberg’s lighting design. Paul Daigneault makes great use of the stage; his actors fill every corner.
Vocally, the cast is outstanding, despite the unremarkable score. The characters, too, are rather underdeveloped, but the strength of this particular cast lies in the relationships they have with one another, and the synergy they create. Despite the grim realities of war, there’s a lot of love onstage, and who doesn’t want to see that? For more info go to http://www.speakeasystage.com/dogfight/