Going on a journey: A tough situation turns into a love story of acceptance in No Square Theatre’s newest show

By THERESA KEEGAN

No Square Theatre is continuing its season of presenting shows with an unexpected twist when Dogfight – the Musical begins on May 17.

“My goal has been to choose shows not done very often, but which have a following,” said Ella Wyatt, artistic director. “I really wanted to present a unique season.”

The plot of Dogfight revolves around three Marines heading to Vietnam in the early days of fighting. Their last night stateside they embrace a cruel challenge to find the ugliest woman. However, the interaction between Eddie Birdlace and Rose takes the plot down a different path.

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Photos by Abby Matossian

Gavin Hamze (above) portrays one of a group of young Marines whose action the night before they deploy to Vietnam is the catalyst that creates the plot in “Dogfight”

“It’s an unexpected love story,” said Wyatt. “They meet under lies and manipulations, and they end up getting to actually know each other. It’s really about this relationship and getting to know each other at a different level.”

Wyatt and Karen Rymar, who is making her No Square directorial debut with this show, were confident they could get the cast they needed – even though it’s traditionally difficult to get men for musicals. The theater is earning a reputation for excellence and producing challenging shows.

“I’m super blessed with who this cast is – they came in with their hearts ablazing,” Rymar said of the auditions. “We had big numbers that showed up to audition and we got to pick from really, really strong people.”

Braxton McGrath, who plays Eddie, was thrilled to be selected for the part.

“Early on, when Dogfight first came out (in 2012) people in the theater community were raving about it, but I never really got into it,” he said. “Then when it came to my college (Cal State Fullerton) I fell in love with how raw the show is – it’s very real. I appreciate that authenticity.”

He played the alternate for Eddie in the college production, and really began to understand the character.

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Braxton McGrath is thrilled to play the lead role of Eddie, a Marine who goes on a journey to discover what he values

“He (Eddie) has one of the biggest arcs in musical theater – he goes from being very abrasive – because of the fact he doesn’t know better – to becoming his own man,” said McGrath. “He’s taking that shift through the show, when he’s discovering himself and having Rose to guide him on that journey…now he has more options for who he can be as a person.”

The timeless story of redemption and growth resonated with Wyatt. The musical, which came out in 2012 is based on the 1991 film, which is set in the early 1960s, on the brink of the Vietnam war. The music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul – they also wrote the score for La La Land – is both funny and insightful.

“It’s so relevant for today,” said Wyatt. “It’s really a love story and about finding yourself. There are trying times in the world and yet you can still find goodness around you.” She cautions the show is not intended for younger audiences because of strong language and an assault scene.

Rymar believes the issues at the heart of Dogfight will likely never fully disappear, but believes the show is educational, as well as entertaining.

“My hope is that our audience is able to find something that resonates with them,” she said, “and (that) prompts continued conversation regarding compassion and the true source of beauty within each of us.”

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Brooklyn Vizcarra has been enamored with the role of Rose ever since the musical “Dogfight” previewed, and is thrilled to portray this main character in the show

Brooklyn Vizcarra, who plays Rose, was drawn to the part ever since one of her favorite actors, Lindsay Mendez, originated the role of Rose in the off-Broadway production.

“I love that this story goes through different people’s interpretations of innocence,” she said. “Not only Rose’s innocence, but Eddie’s innocence and the country’s innocence. The world is about to change completely and everybody’s idea of life…is about to change. It’s about real things that happen…People can relate.”

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The setting at No Square is perfect for such an intimate story, said Vizcarra, who drives from Upland to the near daily rehearsals that have been required to get the show ready for opening night.

“I feel alive when I do this,” she said. “I think I do it truly for the joy. This is my dream role, so it’s a dream come true to play it.”

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Wyatt Pendleton and Macy Buckley are part of the 12-person cast that will present “Dogfight” at No Square Theatre, from May 17 through May 26

A very deep connection seems to run between this story, the cast and all the people involved in this production.

“No Square is a pretty magical place,” said Rymar, who has worked at the Orange County School of the Arts for the past two decades and is now the school’s director of arts enrichment.

She cites choreographer Sabrina Harper and musical director Christopher W. Smith with creating a supportive, exciting environment that allows the cast to thrive. She believes the professionalism of the entire creative team (stage manager Chloe Deutchman, light and audio Blake Huntley, costumes Brigette Harper and sets Chris Caputo) contributes to creating an overall performance that will linger long after the show is over.

“The feel of it is such a dichotomy to what the story is,” said Rymar. “The leads go through this journey and growth – it provokes so much thought that you forget you’re falling in love with these guys.”

For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, click here.


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