“Dogfight” is one of the first shows on the Lewiston Civic Theatre stage to employ a modern musical style featuring a small cast, minimal set and a serious topic. The show opens this week.“It’s not a comedy,” was the first thing Director Mel Syverson said of the musical. That’s not to say there aren’t humorous moments, she added, but it’s a bittersweet rather than feel-good production.
Set in the 1960s during the Vietnam conflict-soon-to-be-war, the show follows Marine Eddie Birdlace (Isaac Ryckeghem of Moscow) and his two friends on the night before their deployment. The three participate in a “dogfight,” in which they throw money in a pot that goes to whoever gets the ugliest date. Eddie invites a waitress he meets, Rose (Alaina Trickey of Clarkston), who is hurt when she discovers his motives. The show focuses on the relationship that unfolds between them that night.
“It’s a great story,” Syverson said. “It deals with issues of finding a place where you belong and it boldly faces the issue of how we treated Vietnam soldiers when they first came home.”
Although the show’s beautiful, poignant music is what first drew Syverson to the show, she describes it as a simplified musical.
“It’s not a song-and-dance kind of thing, which is becoming more and more common on Broadway,” Syverson said.
“Dogfight” first appeared on Broadway in 2011, she said, and reflects a growing trend that diverges from the light-hearted fun typically associated with a musical and takes on weightier issues.
“In big musicals you get this big, broad picture, and in this kind of musical you zoom in and get more intimate with a small cast and a more meaty story,” Syverson said.
The show is rated R because of the language, which Syverson said aptly reflects the show’s setting and subject matter. The rougher aspects of the story, including the degrading “dogfight” tradition and poor treatment of returning soldiers, she expects to hit home for those who lived during that time, as well as inform a younger audience of past reality.
“One of the points this show makes well is that this is what we knew at the time and we’re learning from our mistakes,” Syverson said. “It’s celebrating the fact that we’re learning to do better.”
Thanks to the talent and hard work of her cast, the well-polished show has been ready for audiences for a couple weeks, Syverson said. She encouraged people to avoid waiting until closing weekend to see the show.
If you go:
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28-30, Feb. 4-6, 11-13 and 2 p.m. Jan. 31 and Feb. 13-14
WHERE: Lewiston Civic Theatre, 805 Sixth Ave., Lewiston
COST: $16 adults, $13 seniors age 60 and older, $11 student with ID, $8 children 12 and younger. Tickets are available online at www.lctheatre.org or by calling the box office at (208) 746-3401.