If the show leaves out the underside, from life-threatening drug overdoses to promiscuity and STDs, well, we have endless confessional memoirs on the subjects. Hairs after something different: to trace the shape of a new hope, as it appeared proudly for a few seasons in cities and towns across this continent. If you were there, or if you simply want to know what it was like, you really shouldnt miss this splendid production.
The show doesnt have much plot: its mostly about a group of 14 young men and women who express their delight in life and relationships, and who watch more or less helplessly as the one called Claude gets called up by his draft board in preparation for a posting to Vietnam. On Scott Coopers two-level set, bedecked with peace signs and painted posters saying A Friend with Weed is a Friend Indeed and Mobilize Against the War, these characters make fun of parents and racists, argue a little (How can people be so heartless?) and exult in being young and turned-on.
A few characters stand out: theres Claude himself (the talented Jonathan Hack), who pretends to come from Manchester, England (actually, hes from Flushing), and Jeanie (the ingratiating Stefanie Clouse), his girlfriend, whos pregnant with another mans child. Theres Berger (Jeremy Hays), who pulls off his pants as he walks through the audience, and sings about the time he mistook the Statue of Liberty for his girlfriend Donna, and theres Woof (Dick Baker), who tells the audience that I love you and we are all one.
The skillful Aleshea Harris plays Abraham Lincoln in a stovepipe hat, and the terrific singer Darlene Hope tells us just whats so attractive about White Boys. During a segment emphasizing the horrors of war, Crissy (Alex Covington) and Jeanie sing What a Piece of Work is Man, a praise of the human creature taken directly from Shakespeare, with the implication that such a being is too precious to be used as a target in an unnecesary war. And theres Sheila (Laura Hodos), who gives Berger a shirt he doesnt want, and who reminds us that even hippies cant keep pain out their lives.
Theres lots more: for example the assault on censorship titled Sodomy, and the corporeal exultation of I Got Life. Theres some nostalgic chanting of Peace Now, Freedom Now, and Hell No, We Wont Go. Theres a sequence in which each character stands in a drug line thats right and theres Claudes stoned assertion that its the age of the electronic dinosaur.
And mostly there are the famous songs, from Hair to Good Morning Starshine. Cynthia Hennessys choreography is extraordinarily exciting, and Eric Davis direction is nothing short of brilliant. (Im beginning to think that Davis is the best director in the Bay area.) Frank Chavezs costumes include long flowery dresses, vests and headbands, and a dozen other badges of hippie couture. The onstage band couldnt be better.
And the American Stage Hair could hardly be better itself. This is a show that works on all levels: music and dance, intellect and emotion, memory and desire. Its astonishingly powerful and probably unforgettable. Seldom has any show reached so deeply into my psyche.
Productions like this come once a decade.
Get a ticket if you can.