Saturday, November 25, 2006

Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair

The OSU Theater Department was performing Hair this past week. The production was pretty good, but the show, as you might expect, hasn't aged well. Meredith Lark (Sheila -- "Easy to Be Hard") and Jessica Podewell (Jeanie -- "Let the Sunshine In") were fantastic. But overall, rather than it being this groundbreaking, almost dangerous expression of youth identity and rebellion, it was more like some fairly engaging kids dressing up in their grandparents' clothes and playing hippie.

My biggest problem were the wigs. When people are celebrating their hair, they shouldn't be so obviously worried that it will fall off if they move too wildly. Most of the guys looked really uncomfortable.

You know what would work better? Not making it a period piece. Originally, "Hair" was like being in the presence of people "freaking out in the Village -- with music" (critic Leigh Carey wrote in "Rolling Stone"). I'd like to see college students making "Hair" their own, with their own hair. The themes are still relevant: racism, crushing inhibitions, the hypocrisy of euphemism, free but nevertheless unrequited love, the search (perhaps pharmaceutically-fueled) for meaning and spirit, and the very real threat of being sent to die for the society you're trying to reject. I'd like to see the students celebrating who they think they are, rather than celebrating with ironic distance who a previous generation thought they were.

(I should mention the lighting design. It was Jason "Scotty" Banks' MFA project, and it was stunning.)


Unknown said...

Right! Those themes should be extremely relevant to this generation of college students, don't you think? Pity they didn't capture that.

yarmando said...

I should reiterate that for what it was trying to do, this production of "Hair" was pretty good. The staging was good, the singing was pleasant, the choreography seemed a little regimented but was performed well. I just wanted something revolutionary and revelatory, and instead got an evening of perfectly pleasant and talented young people performing something that didn't really shock or challenge me all that much, and I think that may have been an opportunity they wasted.