Directed by Derek Critzer
Book by Peter Duchan
Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Starring Jose Rivers and Sophie Cooper
Theater West End, Sanford, Florida
Carl F. Gauze
Once you get through Marine Boot Camp and can get a tattoo, you’re so full of piss and vinegar you can water the garden while making a salad. Tomorrow the “Three Bees” ship out for Okinawa, then on to Vietnam and Lyndon Johnson’s buildup. Those “Three Bees” are Boland (Chase Williams), Bernstein (Phillip Edwards) and Birdlace (Jose Rivers). The are up for a “Dogfight.” Each ponies up $50 and has two hours to get a date with the ugliest girl available. Boland hires a hooker, Bernstein convinces a girl to come along for drinks, and Rivera picks up a lonely and overweight diner waitress Rose (Cooper) with a stack of lies a politician would be ashamed of. It’s a cruel trick, but it shows the lack of humanity needed to survive a war. When it’s over, only Birdlace feels regret, and he goes back to Rose’s place to ask forgiveness. He takes her to a nice restaurant and then out to see the sights, and they fall in love. Then Birdlace ships out without saying goodbye and never sends her a letter until he comes home and finds Ruth waiting for him. It may not be happy ever after, but it’s slightly better than dying alone.
The story is rather horrifying, packed with abuse and submission, and while it may be realistic, it’s sometimes wincing to watch. Rivers does show remorse, but only to a point, and Ruth’s patience and response is a bit embarrassing. I wanted her to at least ask for an explanation. This show is also musical, with tunes that fit the task on stage, but didn’t have the bite needed to drive them home. A rotating stage keeps the action flowing, and murky light punch home the firefight on stage. The fog of war got out of hand, making finding the men’s room at intermission a challenge. Go see this: “Dogfight” is an unexpected type of musical. The only advice I can offer is, this is not a good first date show. Just sayin’…