“The Word is Out, WRP is the Place to be for Good Theater.”

‘Superior’ directing featured in WRP’s ‘Dogfight’

4/19/2018 – West Side Leader

By David Ritchey


BATH — The war in Vietnam was growing and more American combat troops were called to fight. Western Reserve Playhouse’s (WRP) production of “Dogfight,” which runs through April 28, tells the story of soldiers during the night before they leave San Francisco to go to battle in 1963. This group of U.S. Marines will leave family, friends and sweethearts. These Marines have planned a dogfight — a party. Simply stated, a dogfight is a mean-spirited party. Each man contributes money, and after the dance, a judge selects the ugliest girl. The man who brought the winning girl (the ugliest) gets all of the money in the pot.

Birdlace (Kyle Burnett) stops by a diner for a little food and drink and is still looking for a date for the dogfight party. He’s a friendly guy who wants to participate in the party.

Rose (Kimberly Sullivan) is the waitress who serves him. He invites Rose to the party and finally succeeds in convincing her to go with him. Their lives are changed by this date.

The Marines seem to know their lives will be changed forever by this dogfight and their roles in Vietnam.

The lounge singer (Kevin Cline) appears in various scenes and offers the young Marines advice. The lounge singer knows the ways of the military and helps the Marines fine stability on the last night before they leave for the next chapter in their lives.

Ruth Two Bears (Kaleigh Velette) is one of the guests at the party. The playwright gave her some tough lines and physical action. She earned applause and cheers from women in the audience.

In the second act, our Marines make it to battle. They brag their training was good enough to keep them alive. They are scared. The whistle of bullets flying by the Marines makes out heroes aware of the seriousness of the situation.

Remember, this is a musical. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote the music and lyrics. Peter Duchan wrote the book. The play is based on the Warner Brothers film and screenplay by Bob Comfort.

In WRP’s production, David Stebbins is the music director. Cameron Stebbins (cello) and Maclane Stebbins (percussion and cello) are the sons of David Stebbins. Alex Kenrick (guitar), a professional guitarist, contributes to the production.

Elyse Morckel is a gifted choreographer who designed the marches of the Marines as dances and choreographed the drunken dogfight party.

WRP Artistic Director Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski serves as director and set designer for the show. She designed a set that made room on the stage for a large cast and big dance numbers. The set included a large painting of the Golden Gate Bridge swallowed by mountains of fog. Noah Hrbek is the scenic artist who painted the fog-shrouded bridge.

Kelsey Tomlinson (costumer) designed the military uniforms, the clothes for the women at the dogfight party and a great costume for the lounge singer.

Sniadak-Yamokoski kept the show running at break-neck speed. She is known locally as an excellent performer. However, after you see “Dogfight,” you’ll know she is a superior director.

Sniadak-Yamokoski and Co-Artistic Director Brian Westerley have brought new life into WRP. They’ve turned WRP into a place to go for superior theater. They’re bringing new scripts to their audiences and staging those scripts in innovative ways.

After the opening night performance, a friend said, “This is the best production I’ve seen in a long, long time.” In the past when I saw a show at WRP, the theater was not fully filled. On opening night of “Dogfight,” the seats were mostly filled. The word is out, WRP is the place to be for good theater. Don’t miss “Dogfight.”