In June 2012, Second Stage Theatre, a New York theatre company, debuted the musical adaptation of Dogfight. The show is an adaptation of the 1991 film, Dogfight, by Nancy Savoca. Last Friday, UC Follies gave an enthralling performance of their own at Hart House Theatre. The production was directed by Sam Poole.

Dogfight takes us back to November 21, 1963, where a group of rowdy marines are gathered in San Francisco to spend their last night before they are deployed to Vietnam.

The audience is introduced to Eddie Birdlace (Cole Currie) and his two best friends, Ralphie Boland (Brandon Vollick) and Dickie Bernstein (Devon Laird), through the musical number, “We Three Bees.” The origins of the play’s title soon become clear when the boys decide to spend their night participating in a heartless game called “Dogfight.” For the game, each marine gives around $50, a portion of which goes towards renting the party joint. Whatever is left over goes towards prize money. The rules of the game are simple: whoever brings the ugliest date to the party wins the prize money. Eager to win the money, Birdlace and his friends search the city for potential dates—cue the song, “Hey Good-Lookin.”

Birdlace finds a girl named Rose Fenny (Sophie Waldman). Rose is first introduced as a shy waitress with musical aspirations. Birdlace flirts with her and convinces her to come as his date to the party through the song, “Come to a Party.” Rose is hesitant at first, but Birdlace’s charm finally wins her over. Unaware of the party’s true intentions, Rose is thrilled and ends up wearing the majority of her closet to get ready as she sings, “Nothing Short of Wonderful.” Meanwhile, other marines manage to find dates, including Boland, who breaks convention and invites Marcy (Crissy Voinov), an unattractive prostitute.

Later that evening, Rose discovers the true purpose of the party from Marcy. She’s infuriated at Birdlace and hits him in the face. Determined to make things right with Rose, Birdlace goes to apologize and Rose forgives him when she realizes his sincerity. What started as an inauspicious date slowly unfolds into a sweet and awkward love story between the two characters, as Rose changes the rules of the game and teaches Birdlace about compassion and humility.

The set design was appropriate for the era of the play. The red-and-white checkered pattern of the diner’s table cloth and the black-and-white checkered wallpaper with red and blue paneling suited the 1960s time period.

The costumes were characteristic of both the time period and of the characters who wore them. Rose’s conservative look matched her naïve persona. The red dress, overcoat, and purse she wore to the “Dogfight” suited her kind character. The yellow number she wore at the end showed how true to herself she remained in Birdlace’s absence during the war. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Marcy’s outfits matched society’s perception of her profession. Marcy wore a hideous leopard print outfit to the party.

Although the play dealt with serious subjects of war and death, there was plenty of light-hearted humor that raised the audience’s spirits and reminded us that humour has a place even in times of great sadness.

A band performed the accompaniment for the songs. The music was well-rehearsed and well-timed. The band certainly helped set the mood throughout the performance. For instance, the moment Birdlace tells Rose that he’s leaving the next day, a soft tune plays in the background that perfectly conveys the disappointment and heartbreak that both Rose and Birdlace experience, knowing they only have one night to spend with one another.

The power of love and compassion, even in times of war, should not be underestimated. Dogfight reminds us of this powerful idea.

Dogfight runs until December 3 at Hart House Theatre.

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