Theatre: Clown and Hero
by Harold Clurman
New York Magazine - May 20, 1968

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Let us skip Cyrano de Bergerac which hobbles flatfootedly across the forestage of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre and prance over to the Biltmore where a young company knocks itself out in a frantic cutup called Hair.  Rostand was extremely French in an idiom which Henry James described as a "bristling bravery of verse, a general frolic of vocabulary, especially under the happy crack of the whip of rhyme" - all absent in its present production.  Hair is extremely American in its reflection of part of our youth in its "Don't give a damn" mood to the hectic jostle of its rock and roll score.

The new mounting of Gerome Ragni's, James Rado's, and Galt MacDermot's musical, containing many new numbers, is far less lyrical then the one at the Public Theater downtown.  The latter was wistful: its emblematic song, the touchingly sentimental "Good Morning Starshine," having been eliminated uptown.

Much else is dropped in the revision - notably its entire story-line.  The show is now little more than a series of numbers: tunes accompanied by seemingly improvised and corybantic dance dislocations.  They all add up to a Bronx cheer to patriotics, ages caution, middle-class restraint, war and all the attributes of white collar respectability.

A moment of tender quiet is provided when Shelley Plimpton (from the original cast) sings "Frank Mills," an oddly tender love ditty, in its very unpretentiousness the most original note in the score.  (I also liked the putting to music of "What A Piece of Work Is Man.") But "Frank Mills" is no longer characteristic.  Jolly shakes, quakes and perpetual bombination are the rule.

There is gold in the garbage.  In a recalcitrant frame of mind one might say that the proceedings were snottily orgiastic.  Depending on one's disposition this may repel or attract.  Still there is no denying that Tom O'Horgan has a visually inventive stage sense.  Though some of his leaps of fantasy fail to take shape and seem like wild impulses of the fellow who insists at all times on being the life of the party, O'Horgan is talented as only a few of his more composed colleagues among directors are.  It may also be true that he would be less representative of his generation if his work were more studied. The essence of his show is tatterdemalion.

The girls are good looking: one of them, Lynn Kellogg in a fetching Hollywood doll fashion.  There are male and female nudes, but this is no novelty: we have all seen naked men and women before - and to better advantage.

There is an aspect to the evening which I shall possibly wish to discuss on another occasion.  Suffice it to say now that i was both encouraged and worried by what I saw.  The release of inchoate energy and mocking anarchy are at time signs of health but without the discipline of thought and sure aim they often fizzle out in futility.

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