By Emelia Fredlick
Arts & Entertainment Editor
When Ad Hoc Productions announced that their fall production would be Dogfight, no one quite knew what to expect. The show certainly doesn’t have the same name recognition as some of their previous efforts – Spring Awakening, Rent and Hair, to name a few – and it can be a little nerve-wracking to go into a show you know absolutely nothing about. But as it turned out, sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
Dogfight opened on Thursday, Nov. 13, and continues through next Saturday in the Black Box Theater in the Burlington Road Building.
Based on a little-known 1991 film of the same name starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, the 1960s-set Dogfight follows a group of rookie Marines on the eve of their departure for Vietnam. The hard-drinking, hard-cursing, looking-to-get-laid crew sets out on a “dogfight,” a misogynistic game where the guy who finds the ugliest date wins a pile of cash. But when Eddie Birdlace (College junior Tyler Moon) comes across the soft-spoken, thoughtful Rose Fenny (College sophomore Victoria Hood), he begins to question the ethics of this ritual.
The show starts on an exceptionally mediocre note, with the exceptionally mediocre “Some Kinda Time,” but gradually picks up the pace and the emotion, progressively improving, right up to the emotionally impactful and captivating climax.
Every song seems to be an upgrade from the previous one. There’s the manipulative but irresistibly catchy “Hey, Good Lookin’,” which the guys use to pick up their “dogs”. There’s “Come to a Party,” which comes off as so shy and romantic that it’s easy to forget Eddie’s real motivations for inviting Rose.
And especially resonant is Rose’s solo “Nothing Short of Wonderful,” a beautiful tune in which she frets over what to wear on her date. Hood is charming as ever in the scene, excellently depicting the thrill and nervousness of a first date – from the whimsical way she flips through her clothes to the breathless way she repeats “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!”
She creates the moment so well, it renders the scene where she finds out about the dogfight even more tragic.
Yes, it’s clear that the boys are misogynistic jerks. But the show knows that they are and uses these despicable characters as a means to make a statement about war. They’re so focused on how their status as Marines makes them attractive to women, they forget the actual purpose of being a Marine: to go to war. And they think so much about what they can attain from these women, they forget that they might be affected by them as well – the same phenomenon they experience in Vietnam.
And for driving this theme home so exceptionally, the cast deserves major credit. Moon as Eddie somehow manages to come off as both arrogant and self-conscious, and Hood excellently avoids becoming the conventional meek ingÃ©nue – as we soon discover, Rose is actually far more clever and entertaining than any of the Marine characters.
In one particularly lovely scene, Rose discovers that Eddie asked her out only as part of the “dogfight.” But instead of slinking away and crying, she stands up for herself. She slaps Eddie – hard – on the cheek and tells him to his face what a terrible person he is. It’s an incredibly satisfying moment (a few audience members cheered audibly) and a nice way to differentiate the character from a lazy stereotype.
Similarly, it’s extremely refreshing to see a show that uses sex, profanity and misogyny to drive home a point, not just to be edgy. Yes, you will definitely be offended throughout the course of the show, but that’s the point.
Still, it’s not just offensive the whole way through: it’s also genuinely funny. College senior Chelsea Walton is particularly noteworthy in her role as the wise prostitute Marcie, who, upon hearing the story of how the Marines met, aptly asks, “Let me get this straight – you guys became friends from standing in a line?” And College senior Tom Cassaro consistently maintains his charm and magnetism, even when he’s staring through a lens at a naked woman.
One final element of the show worth mentioning is the climax, which sees the Marines finally off to Vietnam. They head off singing, chanting, ready to take on the war. They run around the stage energetically, eventually stopping to raise their guns to the audience. For a moment, nothing happens; yet they remain in position, ready to shoot. The performers’ positions onstage, combined with the intense lighting and complete lack of any movement, creates a truly tense atmosphere.
Dogfight takes the audience on quite a ride: from angry to entranced, lighthearted to somber. Leaving the show, I wasn’t sure if I was satisfied with the ending or not. But either way, I kept thinking about it for hours afterwards. And it’s clear that these are not characters that will soon be forgotten.
– By Emelia Fredlick at, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Editor’s note: This production contains depictions of war violence and sexual assault. Counseling and support services remain available to the Emory community. Students may reach the Counseling and Psychological Services Center by calling 404.727.7450 or the Office of Religious Life at 404.727.6225. Faculty and staff may reach the Faculty Staff Assistance Program at 404.727.4328.