So they smoke pot and burn draft cards and wear beads and don't wash and depend on horoscopes and sleep around. And yet, despite their surface similarities, the hippies are in it for different reasons - at least, that is what we are told by Hair, the first production of the New York Shakespeare Festival's new indoor Public Theater.
As individuals begin to emerge from the mob of intense, bushey-haired youngsters, we feel a direct empathy for the waif-like little girls who look as though they're only months away from skipping rope, and for the Negro youngsters who find an acceptance denied them elsewhere. Even the completely depraved ring leaders acquire an immediacy beyond mere sociology.
But perhaps the most significant point made by Hair is that the ones who are rebelling against middle class mores will almost inevitably establish new middle class mores of their own. The way is clearly indicated when Claude (Walker Daniels), who is about to be inducted into the army (he burned his birth certificate when the others were burning their draft cars), sings a sentimental ditty called "Exanaplanatooch" to Sheila (Jill O'Hara), who is falling in love with him. At first this episode seems out of key with the explosiveness of the rest of the show, and the song itself is inferior to the remainder of the score by Galt MacDermot. And yet, almost in spite of itself, the scene gives Hair a point. The point is reinforced after Claude, hair now cut, joins the line of faceless recruits, leaving Sheila to stand alone in the center of the stage with toy tanks coming at her from all directions. She is the unvanquished sentimentalist, and we are all a little glad.
When Hair was in rehearsal, Anna Sokolow was announced as it's choreographer. A hospital stay postponed her working on it. Upon her return, she was suddenly announced as both choreographer and director. Gerald Freeman, the original director, is, however, credited in the program.
Be that as it may, the action has the sinewy toughness characteristic of Miss Sokolow's approach. It also gives the impression that the cast was called upon to improvise it's own action, and then the whole thing was formalized into a structure. The result is a spontaneity and a lurking-beneath-the-skin anger, as though Hair were a logical sequel to West Side Story. And like West Side Story, it depends greatly on movement images - the eerie beauty of the actors reaching upward, curling fetally, or crossing the stage on their knees during the pot party scene - the lines of conquerors surging forward and piling upon their predecessors, giving war a repetitiousness as silly as it is tragic - the wooden gestures of "Mom" (Marijane Maricle) and "Dad" (Ed Crowley) as they bid goodbye to army bound Claude, who is nothing but a coat on a hanger - the chilling irony of Crissy (Shelley Plimpton) intoning a macabre ditty in the virginal tone of Susan Reed.
The book and lyrics were by Gerome Ragni and James Rado. Ming Cho Lee devised the tasteful pop decor. Theoni V. Aldredge's costumes had just the right improvised look. But the real stars were the singing-acting-dancing young people. Even their bad language assumed a certain innocence.
Copyright Dance Magazine. All rights reserved.