Directed by guest artist Melissa Rain Anderson, Geneseo’s “Dogfight: The Musical” follows the romance of Rose—played by junior Alexandra Salerno—and Eddie Birdlace—played by senior Liam Enright—while also analyzing the changing mindsets of Americans in the 1960s. Students performed the show from April 8–Saturday April 11 in the Alice Austin Theatre in Brodie Hall. “Dogfight” is a story of redemption. The music and style of the show artistically portrayed the changes that took place during the peace movement—an era that started with the post-World War II feelings of triumph and excitement and then transitioned into tense feelings of anxiety. According to Enright, the show also focuses on “misogyny and masculinity in American culture and how we navigate that.”
As portrayed in “Dogfight,” soldiers returned home to a country that rejected them after dealing with the atrocities of war. In a play with such serious themes, Enright mentioned how the actors “[made] sure that—because there’s humor in the show—it was directed in the right areas.”
The story begins with a cruel bet. A group of marines stage a “dogfight,” in which each man places $50 into a pool. Whoever brings the ugliest girl to the party wins all of the money. The humiliating trick turns into a genuine romance between Eddie Birdlace and his lovable date, Rose. Rose serves as the heroine, teaching Eddie the importance of compassion.
The show begins with the introduction of the “Three Bees”—Bernstein, Birdlace and Boland, three marines enjoying their last night home. Taking place in San Francisco before the men are shipped out to Vietnam, the musical kicks off with the marines singing “Some Kinda Time.” This upbeat song conveys their anticipation for the evening ahead.
The story continues as Eddie finds Rose working in a diner and asks her to the dogfight. Rose is optimistic and immediately gains the audience’s sympathy. At the dogfight, she meets Boland’s date—a prostitute named Marcy, whose one-liners and sarcastic attitude made her a crowd favorite.
Played by senior Abby Herron , Marcy reveals to Rose the painful reality of the evening. The audience sees an entirely new side of the previously-naïve Rose in her heart-wrenching solo “Pretty Funny.” Salerno did an incredible job portraying the anguish and disappointment Rose feels.
Enright proves to keep Eddie in the audience’s good graces. His powerful and believable affection for Rose comes through in his performance of “First Date/Last Night.” The chemistry between Eddie and Rose reveals that Eddie is a genuinely good person.
The tone of the show is completely changed upon Eddie’s initial entrance into Vietnam. When the marines sing a reprise of “Some Kind of Time” a battle scene interrupts it, portraying the jarring and terrifying experience of young soldiers entering the war. We see Eddie transform from a foolish cadet into the ghost of a human, traumatized and shocked by the reality of the situation.
Enright noted that he hoped audience members would “examine our beauty standards in the United States [and] the ways that men are expected to close [themselves] off emotionally.” Each actor in this production of “Dogfight” brought a unique voice and an important element to the story. With believable emotion and palpable chemistry, the story came to life beautifully.