I was seriously impressed that this was a student production.
Produced by the basement arts, a student theater organization here at the University of Michigan, dogfight told a story of a young US marine who fell in love with a waitress who he had invited to a party with a bad intention. Although the theme of war inevitably cast a shadow of tragedy over the story, the production team did not permit the gloominess to eat up the vibrant energy of student actors and the production team. There were so many precious moments of humor that made the show so enjoyable, like in the scene where Rose, the girl who the main character, Eddie, asks out for a date, show him how capable she is of speaking foul languages after she was annoyed because Eddie swore too much.
The first compliment I would like to give is about the music composed for this performance. They were not only good to hear but cleverly constructed to fit the story. The number where this stood out most was a scene of a date night where Eddie asked Rose out after apologizing to her. They sang a song together about their feelings while they are wandering the streets. The characters’ emotions wouldn’t have been ripe enough to sing a full love sonnet. Eddie had done wrong to Rose and Rose was angry at him a while ago, so the romantic lyrics would have been too much. Here, the composers did an interesting twist that the characters would express their feelings with the humming of ‘Bum Bum Bum’, a playful but hopeful tune that explains the excited but uncertain emotional state of the two characters. Nicely done.
This song was performed by the two main characters, but a lot of other songs involved the whole ensemble. The tone of the dance was cheerful to reflect the dauntless marine boys who were too young to face the fear of the war, and the performers nailed this psych with bold movements and occasional humorous scenes. I would also like to shout out to the light designers as well. There were many scenes in the play where the performers had to be in a separate space but are visible at the same time. Lights were used in such cases to create the boundaries between spaces, which I found very creative. There was also a scene where the marines sang about America before they went to war. Red, blue and white lights were flashed on each group as the ensemble formed three groups that faced different directions This is still fresh in my mind as I write this review.
Although the story itself is a familiar one that has a male character and a female character falling over each other unexpectedly, the production design, the vigor of performers, and exciting music transformed the common story into a unique production. I look forward to seeing what surprise the basement arts will have for the university community.
*Featured photo from the Michigan Daily, photo by Jack Zeile