There’s a war. Or there are wars, as DOGFALL, the latest production from Iron Age Theatre, is a loosely continuous melodrama about three characters stuck in most of the bigger armed conflicts of the 20th century. Two men (Adam Altman and Luke Moyer) start stuck in a bunker in the First World War, where the play quickly discovers its absurd vein as dogs, and later other pets, start raining down from the skies. As time passes, the two men, stuck in various siege situations throughout history, capture a prisoner of war (Jenna Kuerzi) to both abuse and befriend.
Caleb Lewis’s script for DOGFALL has obviously been heavily influenced by Samuel Beckett, and Waiting for Godot in particular. DOGFALL even borrows the famous first line of Waiting for Godot as its last line, and of course two men waiting for what seems like all of eternity is a familiar concept, as well. Unfortunately, the subtlety, philosophical complexity and brilliant character writing of Beckett is nowhere to be found in DOGFALL, which consistently chooses melodrama over anything truly provocative.
The play presents a series of rather simple insights about war—the concept that both sides think they are right is hardly revolutionary—as some kinds of profound bunker thoughts. This together with the all-too-clever references and cross-references drown anything that might be interesting about the actual characters. It seems the playwright has been too busy coming up with expositional devices and symbols to create an engaging story or interesting characters.
Everything around the script does its best to save what can be salvaged. The location at The Power Plant is perfect for this play, and the set benefits greatly from that. The acting is good across the board, although all three actors indulge in the inherent melodrama of the script a little too much. But, at times, they do bring the characters alive, and those are by far the most enjoyable moments of this play.
As an Iron Age production, DOGFALL is disappointing. It looks good and has good intentions, but as everyone aware of military history knows, high aspirations don’t always lead to success.
[The Power Plant, 233 N Bread Street] February 3-21, 2016; ironagetheatre.org.