On November 21, 1963, a group of young marines is gathered in San Fransisco the night before they ship off to Vietnam. They decide to celebrate their last night of freedom with a cruel game they call a “dogfight” where every man sets out to find the ugliest girl he can and brings her to a party. Everyone puts in money, and the man with the ugliest date wins the pot.
One of the young men taking part is Eddie Birdlace, who is running out of time to find a date when he meets idealistic waitress Rose Fenny in a diner. He invites her to the party — her very first party — and she accepts. She leaves angrily when she finds out about the bet and Eddie, feeling bad, comes to find her. After an inauspicious beginning, an awkward love story begins to unfold.
Dogfight is a much like Eddie Birdlace himself. One the one hand, he’s full of the aggressive energy that is part of a pack of young men wrapped up in sex and war and drunk on their own importance. On the other, he’s attracted to the calm, introspective energy of Rose.
The sights and sounds of Dogfight reflects the schism; powerful, repeated melodies and chest-thumping choreography in the Marines- numbers gives them a properly militaristic feel, while everything about Rose, a flower child in the making, has a much folksier sensibility. Though the game at the heart of the plot is a cruel one, the high-energy material and a lot of well placed comedy (in the form of a toothless hooker, to name just one of the more colorful characters) keeps the show from feeling mean-spirited at its core.
Check back soon when libretto and/or lyrics for Dogfight becomes available.