“Dogfight” at Arts West

“Semper fi, do or die,” a fitting motto for the testosterone loaded, newly minted marines who are about to ship off for Vietnam in this play. Their last night stateside will be a blowout beginning with a “dogfight.” A dogfight is a contest in which each man brings the least attractive girl he can find to a party. The marines rent a space, chip in lots of bucks, and the one with the worst “dog” gets the prize money.

Eddie has no luck finding his contestant until late in the day when he chances to meet Rose, a sweet, innocent waitress at her mother’s diner. She’s never been on a date before. It’s a little scary but so exciting and romantic. Then half-way through the evening she finds out just how cruel and mean spirited it really is.

The story is quite predictable, and the first act with its many marine formations moved a little too too slowly for me. The music lacks the highs and lows one hopes for, and I certainly didn’t go away humming any of the tunes.

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Eddie and Rose
photo by Michael Brunk

Things get much better in the second act where romance does eventually bring tenderness to the script. Devon Busswood as Rose is given more room to develop her character as is Kody Bringman as Eddie. Both give depth to their characters’ emotions, and their voices blend well in their duets.

There is such raging machismo here, such blatant misogyny that the role of Marcy the hooker is a needed and well-integrated mediation. Janet McWilliams in the role radiates power and pizazz. Oh yes, she’ll play their ugly game, but will do so only if she’s well rewarded for it. She, not the marines, is in charge here.

This 2012 Peter Duchan stage adaptation of the 1991 film features music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Here Mathew Wright, Arts West’s new artistic director, directs and Christopher DiStefano is in charge of music.

Through Nov. 22, at Arts West, 4711 California Ave., SW, Seattle, (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org).

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