In case you want to see an extraordinary cast that goes the whole 9 yards to make a silk purse – get over to see Dogfight. If things like the continuity of a good story are important to you, think again.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Rough and tumble guy dupes Heart of Gold Gal, is smitten by her innocence and honor, has a change of heart and falls in love. Wow how original.
Specifically a bunch of Marines, about to ship out from San Fran, want to spend their last night together, beginning with a Dogfight. This is where each of them scours the city for the ugliest girl they can find, brings her to a predetermined and the winner – the ugliest dog – is anointed on the dance floor. The winner gets, and is supposed to know, nothing. Her date collects the money that everyone threw into the pool.
Our hero, Eddie (Derek Klena) finds his mark at a local diner. Rose (Lindsay Mendez) works there helping out her mother. Rose has a heart of gold, and on the way to the Dogfight - I’m telling you it is like a miracle – Eddie is overcome by her wonderfulness and has a change of heart. This happens at the moment when he sees her fix her lipstick. OMG.
Eddie tries to take Rose someplace else, but Rose, Heart of Gold that she is, will not hear of it. She wants to meet his friends.
So they go to the Dogfight. Rose discovers the game. She nearly cold cocks Eddie and walks out. He comes after her, they talk, she forgives him and true love blooms.
Seriously – this book is beyond predictable. And it is misogynistic or perhaps myopic at the same time. The men are deluded young Marines with 13 weeks of training under their belt, “If they forgot to teach us anything in training, we’ll figure it out,” who are about to head to Vietnam and discover hell. And the women are either virgins, whores or losers.
Have we not seen enough of this limited and stifling portrayal of relations between the sexes? I guess not.
Oddly enough there are two plot points that are mowed down by Mr. Duchan. 1) The boys are shipping out on the morning of November 22, 1963. Kennedy will be dead within hours of their departure. 2) When Eddie returns to San Francisco it is the time of Haight-Ashbury, and he is not treated with even minor respect or compassion.
It was this last scene that finally resonated with me. It made me aware in a new way of the change that happened in this country between 1963 and 1967 (just guessing on the date because it is not specified in the program). The country some of those soldiers left was not the one to which they returned.
And the combination of those two could have been a great story.
The performers, however, are a complete pleasure to watch. They make this unexciting plot bearable through sheer skill and discipline. The harmonies are close and the pleasure these actors take in singing is palpable.
You should be seeing these actors again if there is any theatre justice roaming the streets. They deserve a show to match their abilities.
(Tulis McCall) What the popular press said...
"Proceeds in a melancholy, tuneful and slightly hesitant trickle that seems to be apologizing for any unpleasantness."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"Two terrific actresses doggedly make it work."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"Here’s a new show that has a lot going for it, including a wonderful performance by star Lindsay Mendez and swift staging by Joe Mantello. But 'Dogfight,' which opened last night at Second Stage, also has a terminally dull score. And that’s kind of a problem for a musical."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Superbly crafted, gratifyingly intelligent, richly observant, and immensely enjoyable. This is musical theater at its finest."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"A show that's decidedly lacking in the youthful inspiration department."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"A largely entertaining new musical that aims very high even if it doesn't always hit the mark."
Roma Torre for NY1
"If the show is not quite there yet, it’s an intriguing piece with plenty of strong elements on which to build."
David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter
"A quirky, intimate musical with impressive but difficult material."
Steven Suskin for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...