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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 31 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 44
Dogfight: Love and cruelty during wartime
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Dogfight: Love and cruelty during wartime

by Paul Torres - SGN Contributing Writer

DOGFIGHT
ARTSWEST
Through November 22


On the eve of their deployment to Vietnam, three Marines filled with youthful bravado, seek out dates for a 'dogfight.' It is a contest that rates the ugliest girl at a dance contest. It is a dehumanizing contest, but it is a tradition passed on through generations of Marines, so the brash recruits accept it as their dutiful rite of passage.

Dogfight is a musical based on the underappreciated 1991 Nancy Savoca (True Love) film starring the late River Phoenix and the always splendid Lili Taylor. Now, as the new musical by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (A Christmas Story - The Musical, NBC's 'Smash') and book by Peter Duchan, it is a brilliant and entertaining peek into two young and yearning souls in the shaky days of the Vietnam era.

Eddie Birdlace is the alpha male in the trio of childhood friends known as 'the three bees' that include Bernstein and Boland. To further sum up their narrow grasp of the world, they only became good friends because of how they lined up alphabetically in grade school. Kody Bringman's portrayal of Birdlace is a masterful performance that at once must be savagely cruel and also bring some hope. Bringman balances these with charm and surefire talent.

Dogfight is a curious mishmash of male posturing - as the boys sing 'See us comin' hit the dirt/Lock your door and hide your daughter/Wouldn't want her gettin' hurt' in 'Some Kinda Time' - and brotherly love expressed during 'Come Back' with 'Bees fight/Bees sting/Watch them die and you can't do a thing.' These poignant moments reveal fragility on the tough and also handsome exterior of these soldiers.

Through the quirky Rose Fenny, who is Birdlace's date for the contest, we awaken to the heart of a plain, young woman who will not suffer the foolishness of the 'dogfight.' As Rose, Devon Busswood illuminates the stage with the heartfelt 'Nothing Short of Wonderful.' Busswood gives a commanding portrayal of a young woman who has resilience that reigns supreme even as the brave, albeit naïve, men go off to war. It is among the finest performances I have seen at ArtsWest.

Director, Mathew Wright delivers an engaging and enthralling story. It is a winning artistic achievement. Musical Director Christopher DiStefano and Choreographer Trina Mills shine up this period piece. The scene when Birdlace and Rose come together in the high point 'First Date/Last Night' performance is an uplifting and joyous ride that connects on a personal level. Wright, who is also Artistic Director at ArtsWest, proves to be an exciting force in the Seattle theater scene.

Dogfight is a musical that you cannot miss. While the song and dance softens the viciousness of the three bees' brutal machismo, it never allows the audience to forgive their actions and hold them unaccountable. The musical elements are necessary delights. It is the perfectly sweet and sorrowful 'Give Way' number when we are reminded of the true grace and beauty of rising above and carrying on.

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Dogfight: Love and cruelty during wartime
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The Way He Looks - An interview with writer/director Daniel Ribeiro
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Calling all Tevyes, Goldes, Lazars, and Hodels!
Seattle Musical Theatre presents Fiddler on the Roof

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Arouet presents the world premiere of an original play: The Fierce Urgency of Now
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CoCA's 22nd 24-Hour Art Marathon & Auction: Thursday, Nov. 13 - Friday, Nov. 15
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Music of Remembrance to premiere new dances by Spectrum Dance Theater's Donald Byrd this November
The dynamic program will feature works by Schoenberg, Smit, Kattenburg and Terezinprisoners

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The Seattle Public Library presents Richard Blanco's new memoir The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood on November 10
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Margaret Cho discusses Joan Rivers, holiday plans and that Weird Al video
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Agreeably nauseating Nightcrawler a toxic wonder
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Seattle South Asian Film Festival 2014 Preview, Capsule Reviews SSAFF includes six films concerning LGBT issues
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