There were no military flags outside Cygnet Theatre’s opening for “Dogfight,” but the loud boot stomping and repeated “Semper-fi” in the opening scenes from the seven actors portraying Marines, grounded this production in its characters’ pride, struggles and chance to be boisterous and deceitful.
With book by Peter Duchan, and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the story is based on the 1991 film “Dogfight,” written by Bob Comfort. It’s set in 1963 when Eddie Birdlace (Patrick Osteen) and his Marine buddies have only one night left before leaving for duty in Vietnam.
These guys know they may not return, so it’s a night of reckless partying, drinking and womanizing. Eddie is joined by his other “three Bee” comrades — Berstein (Scott Nickley) and Boland (Alex Hoeffler) — and other mates, Stevens (Eric Von Metzke), Fector (Charles Evans, Jr.), Gibbs (Ben Gibson) and lounge singer (Bryan Charles Feldman).
Along with drinking, shouting profanities and patting themselves on the back, the guys initiate a game they’ve obviously played before: Dogfight. The Marines throw their money into a pool to bet on who can bring the ugliest date to a party.
Rowdy party scenes follow with the guys showing up with their ideas of ugly women, which include Ruth Two Bears (Mel Domingo) and Marcy (Sarah Errington). Eddie finds his date at restaurant about to close. Rose (Caitie Grady) plays guitar while her mother (Debra Wanger) tries to turn Eddie away, but he stays and eventually convinces Rose to be his date at the party.
During the night, Rose is surprised when Marcy reveals the secret game to her, which makes her feel abused by Eddie, who is himself feeling bad for dragging Rose into the game, and remorseful for how she now feels about him.
The show has amazing energy and a good cast, but some of the lines and profanity are a bit jarring.
Can a last-night appeal by Eddie bring he and Rose together? The tunes “Transition: Take Me Back” by the ladies and “Come Back” by Eddie (Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater in 2011) unveil the answer.