STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
There’s a “Dogfight” on stage at The Media Theatre. By the end of it, according to one cast member, lives will be changed, including those of the members of the audience.
The musical “Dogfight” is based on the 1991 movie starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor. It’s 1963 in San Francisco. A group of soon-to-be-deployed marines spend their last night in the states throwing a dogfight, a party in which they bet on who can bring the ugliest date. Corporal Eddie Birdlace brings Rose, a kind waitress, who forces him to confront some very real truths about himself and the world around him, said Zack Krajnyak, Eddie’s portrayer.
Krajnyak, who’s originally from Williamsport, Pa. and lives in New York City, said in an email interview that the show examines themes of equality, forgiveness, coming of age, and even love.
“Believe it or not from the plot description, ‘Dogfight’ provides some of the most tender and beautiful scenes that I have had the pleasure of working on,” he said.
Eddie changes quite a bit throughout the show, he said, and that’s a gift for any actor.
“Eddie’s a troubled, lost soul and often responds to others impulsively and violently,” Krajnyak said. “However, behind his tough exterior and many lies, Eddie’s also rather sensitive and in search of his place in the world. While he’s certainly no villain, he’s also no conventional hero. Eddie Birdlace is unflinchingly human.”
Krajnyak thinks the story is extremely relatable.
“As we grow into adulthood, I think it’s natural to start looking outside of ourselves to find ourselves,” he said. “We see that our way is not the only way and just how fragile each human life is.”
As Krajnyak has grown into adulthood, his life has come to revolve around theater, which makes him happy. The fact that “Dogfight” is a musical does, too.
“When I was a kid, I loved telling stories. I also really loved music,” he said. “When a plot is guided by songs which further the experience as ‘Dogfight’ certainly is, it makes for some compelling and beautiful art.”
Krajnyak has experience performing in everything from Shakespeare to musical theater like this show to film, and last performed at The Media Theatre last year in the regional premiere of “Ghost the Musical.”
“The experience was a highlight and one of my greatest learning and growing experiences,” he said.
He loves this show even more, so much that he can’t pick a favorite song.
“The score is hauntingly beautiful,” he said. “And Rose, beautifully played and sung by Victoria Guiteras Mayo, has some very moving ballads that I get to hear on stage.” (Mayo previously notably appeared at the theater as Tracy in “Hairspray.”)
Aside from the story and the beauty of the music, Krajnyak thinks the show is brave and the theater is courageous for mounting it.
“The piece is new, hasn’t been done a lot, and really challenges audiences with its non-conventional plot,” he said. “That being said, there seems to be a sense of everybody involved in the production that this is a story that needs to be told.”
And it’s a story that affects everyone, including the actors on stage.
“‘Dogfight’ makes a real statement that’s so worthy of being addressed, especially in today’s world where it has become far too popular to distance ourselves from others based on their appearance or background,” he said. “The cast is spectacular and brings life to some very human characters, warts and all… And despite some very real and often ugly moments, ‘Dogfight’ has one of the most beautiful resolutions that I have ever encountered. It’s really a breathtaking piece that has the power to change whoever it reaches. It has certainly changed me.”