Redwood City Players’ ‘Dogfight’ brings the company to life

By Ande Jacobson

In 2013, Raissa Marchetti-Kozlov realized a portion of a dream she has held from the time she was 18. In working toward her goal of owning (and running) a theater company, she began doing some independent consulting working with San Francisco Bay Area schools on inclusive programs in theater arts. Over time, her outreach grew to include community theater groups in addition to several local schools. Her program provides training to inspire performers, designers, and technicians in theater arts and assists with various theatrical productions of both classical and new works. In 2016, her program formally became Redwood City Players (RCP). Now in July 2018, her company is mounting the first production of its own. That production is Dogfight, sponsored under the Fractured Atlas 501(c)(3) public charity, and the show opens on 14 July in McDonald Hall on the Redwood City American Legion post.

Although from an earlier era, this piece of WWII memorabilia adds some atmosphere to the venue.

Dogfight is a unique work with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and book by Peter Duchan. The show is a stage musical adaptation of the 1991 film of the same name by Bob Comfort. It tells a rather unconventional coming of age love story from the Vietnam era, and the bulk of the action takes place in San Francisco in November 1963. The plotline, and particularly the female lead character, Rose Fenny, resonate with Marchetti-Kozlov not only in the show, but in motivating her to found RCP. Rose is young, a bit shy, very earnest, and has strong convictions. She is also a musician with lots of talent and big dreams. Marchetti-Kozlov sees a lot of herself in Rose, and this show has been one that she’s wanted to present as part of her own theater company ever since it came out.

For Marchetti-Kozlov, Dogfight is the perfect show for RCP’s first independent production. The story amplifies her vision in founding the company. The American Legion space also complements the theme of the show with military memorabilia adoring the walls of the intimate 67-seat space. Although most of that memorabilia is from earlier conflicts, it helps to enhance the military tone of the story. There is a lot of history in that room.

A dogfight in the lexicon of the story, is a rite of passage popular during the 1960s for many young Marines on the eve of their first deployment. On the last night before leaving, they get together as a group and place bets on who could bring the ugliest date to the dance. The dates are judged during the slow dance, and the winner is declared claiming the pot of money and the title for that “Dogfight.”

Birdlace, Boland, and Bernstein each sport one of these.

In the show, three Marines, Eddie Birdlace (Jason Mooney), Boland (Thomas Times), and Bernstein (John Charles Quimpo) are best friends having just gone through training together and are known as “the Three Bees.” They participate with several others in the dogfight, although Birdlace begins to have second thoughts about the ritual when he starts to develop feelings for his date, Rose, as she begins to break through his gruff exterior. Eddie learns as much from Rose as he did from his military training, and it changes him as he prepares to embark on his traumatic tour of duty. It changes her too in many ways.

The contest at the center of the story is a nasty game from the era, and it hits pretty close to home for many, particularly women, in positions where they are judged solely on their looks rather than on their abilities. For Marchetti-Kozlov, this brought back memories of a bad audition experience. The feedback she received after the audition in question was part of what motivated her to work for change to give actors training and experience to weather the sometimes stormy landscape in the theatrical world. In her view, nobody should be barred from participating in theater if they have the skills just because they might not fit the ideal physical model. She also believes that nobody should be prevented from being able to see theater because of personal finances. As a result, RCP has high caliber performers offering compelling performances and welcomes audiences via a donation-based, pay-what-you-can model.

Director and Vocal Director

The production staff includes:

  • Director: Marley Teter
  • Music Director: Benjamin Belew
  • Vocal Director: Kevin Brownstein
  • Choreographer: Gary Ferguson
  • Stage Managers: Crystal Amaya & Alissa Clynne
  • Costume Designer: Rachel Beck
  • Military Consultant: Brigadier General (ret.) Alexander Kozlov

Marchetti-Kozlov in her element.

The full cast includes:

  • Eddie Birdlace: Jason Mooney
  • Boland: Thomas Times
  • Bernstein: John Charles Quimpo
  • Rose Fenny: Raissa Marchetti-Kozlov
  • Marcy: Michelle Skinner
  • Mama: Molly Thornton
  • Lounge Singer: Paul Hogarth
  • Ruth Two Bears: Sage Alberto
  • Fector: Zach Helfinstein
  • Gibbs: Meaghan Anderson
  • Rose (7/27) & understudy for Marcy: Morgan Peters
  • Ensemble: Sage Alberto, Paul Hogarth, Morgan Peters, Molly Thornton

The band includes:

  • Conductor/Keyboard: Benjamin Belew
  • Bass: Michael Perry
  • Cello: Rob Gloster, Jonathan Erman

There are some mature themes and coarse language in the show, so it is not appropriate for young children. The story is touching, and it shows that there is far more to most situations than face value.

Here are two short clips from Dogfight’s sitzprobe:

What: Dogfight

Where: American Legion Post 105, 651 El Camino Real, Redwood City, CA 94063

When: 14-29 July 2018

Donations are gratefully accepted at the door. See www.redwoodcityplayers.org or contact raissa@redwoodcityplayers.org for more information about Dogfight and Redwood City Players, or click tickets to reserve yours today.


Additional references:

Dogfight (cast recording)
Dogfight (film version)


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