REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams


Music & Lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Pauldogfight-7881

Book by Peter Duchan

Directed by Peter Marston Sullivan

Music Direction by Ellen K. Morris

Choreography by Stephen Schellhardt

Produced by BoHo Theatre

At Theater Wit, Chicago

Controversial story line  with  repellent misogyny and attempted rape scene is glossed over with improbable romance

Based on the 1991 film with River Phoenix, Dogfight the musical left me with mixed feelings. Since I don’t appreciate pop-rock music style sans melodies and harmonies and I don’t fancy Broadway pop singing, I am ambivalent to the musical elements. Emily Goldberg as Rose and Garrett Lutz as Eddie tried to kindle romantic sparks through several Sondheim-type songs that they deftly delivered.  The sound mix was troublesome, with mics randomly on and off, and the overwhelmingly loud orchestra often drowned out the singers. But basically my problems with Dogfight revolved around the book, not the production, which was worthily mounted by director Peter Marston Sullivan.


Dogfight presents three young Marines who, on the eve of their being deployed to Vietnam, play a game that necessitates each trying to find the ugliest date to bring to a party. The worst “dogs” get that Marine a load of cash.  We see that the three “B’s” Bernstein (Nick Graffagna), Boland (Matt Frye) and Biedlace (Garret Lutz) each find “dogs” to bring to the party. How cruel and demeaning. Boland hires a whore and agrees to split his winnings with her; she lets her missing teeth show. The other girls have no clue about the game. Eddie Birdlace starts to feel bad that he is being cruel to Rose, the plain, nice-girl. When the judging is over, the toothless girl tells Rose about the game. In her outrage, she slaps Eddie and shouts “I hope you die in the war.”


The Marine’s swaggering, macho attitude toward woman is exemplified when Bernstein, with the help of his Marine buddies, tries to get a whore to have sex with him.  She refuses because there are 6 or 7 in his group, so as the boys hold her down, Bernstein starts to rape her until she agrees to only have sex with him. How can we have any empathy for these animals? They sure crossed the line with their dehumanization of woman. These scenes are offensive to the thousands of US Marines  who served in Vietnam. (I knew several of my classmates who served and died there.) In a later combat scene when two of the B’s get killed, I had no feeling for them.


Then there is Eddie, the foul-mouthed Marine whose guilt forced him to go the Rose’s house. Why would Rose give this louse another chance? Is she so desperate for a date that she lets this crude uncouth soldier back into her life? Eddie finds apology and basic manners hard to express. And, after a romantic date, the two have a night of lovemaking. But to demonstrate  just how terrible a person Eddie is, we think he really cares for Rose – until his buddies read Rose’s address on the paper so Eddie can write her from Vietnam.  They wrinkle the paper and throw it on the ground. What Eddie does after experiencing  more peer group pressure – he retrieves the paper and tears it up – demonstrating how little he really cares for Rose.

So, in Dogfight there isn’t anyone to really care about. Not the group of crude, misogynistic Marines; not Eddie, nor Rose who seems desperate to allow herself more abuse from the louse Eddie.

Still, there seems to be an audience for pop-rock musicals despite it’s treatment of woman and the negative depiction of Marines.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150,, tickets $27 – $30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time 90 minutes without intermission,through October 18, 2015