Alexander Zenoz and Hannah Benitez
A Tough “Dogfight”; Actually a Love Story
By Skip Sheffield
“Dogfight” is not an easy show to like. The Slow Burn Theatre production runs through Nov. 29 in the Abdo Room of Broward Center for the Arts.
The very premise of the story by Peter Duchan is not pleasant. A group of U.S. Marines are letting off steam on an evening in 1963 before they are shipped off to Vietnam. They decide to play a little game. The men dare each other to find the ugliest woman he can find. After paying a $50 entrance fee, contestants are asked to take out that ugly woman. She will then be judged on her ugliness by the other men. The man with the ugliest woman wins the pot.
Slow Burn has made a name for itself by presenting new and challenging material. “Dogfight” is both, but it is hard to embrace this tale of misogynist cruelty.
However, the heart of this show is a romance between one of the Marines and the “ugly” girl he chooses,
Actress and singer Hannah Benitez is not ugly at all. In fact her character of Rose Fenny is quite lovely, with a beautiful voice to match.
The Marine Eddie Birdlace (Alexander Zenoz) likewise has a lovely voice and a winning way, and thereby lies the saving grace of “Dogfight.”
The score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul is unremarkable. There is no “Some Enchanted Evening” in the lot. The songs describe and advance the action, but they are immediately forgettable.
The supporting cast of players under the direction and choreography of Patrick Fitzwater is quite excellent, with familiar Slow Burn names from their time in west Boca Raton. Mike Westrich plays the second banana alpha male, Bernstein. Rick Pena (who also designed the costumes), Christian Vandepas, Brian Varlea and Cameron Jordan are fellow Marines. The other “ugly girls” are Kaitlyn O’Neill, Alexa Baray and Sabrina Lynn Gore. No, not one of them is actually ugly.
I have mixed feelings about the United States Marines. I admire their bravery and physical fitness. On the other hand I endured the worst beating in my life by a Marine on leave from Vietnam. He called me a “long-head bastard” (I had long, curly blond hair) and proceeded to attack me with what seemed like an intent to kill. I was a physically unfit 4-F, so I never went to Vietnam. I had many friends who did, and it seems none of them survived unscathed.
Tickets are $45. Call 954-462-0222 or go to www.browardcenter.org.