The invite: “Naked bodies – wanna see Hair w/ me?”
Response from 20-something friend: “Play’s name is Naked Bodies?”
Sigh. Could Hair, a play that once commanded almost as much attention as certain candidates, have receded that far in the rear view mirror? While it’s not like nobody produces this (the 2009 revival did garner both a Drama Desk and a Tony), this production, the second in BAM’s inaugural year, makes us reexamine this bit of silliness again.
As a play, the pluses and minuses of Hair haven’t changed over the decades. The plot remains thinner than that of many porn flicks. But that’s not the point. Hair continues to be a vehicle for returning to that romantic ’60’s cradle we rocked out of. Amazingly, BAM does this without making making the period look entirely ridiculous. That this production pulls it off is in large part thanks to Jon Tracy’s crisp stage direction.
The main character is a pretentious git named Claude from Flushing who destroys his driver’s license instead of his draft card. That we feel vaguely sympathetic to this pathetic nebbish speaks to Jeffrey Brian Adams’ considerable skills. And that’s precisely why this production works. So much of Hair looks silly in retrospect. If you’re a certain age, replaying the original cast album only makes you wonder what those drugs did to your aesthetics. However, this production doesn’t look ridiculous. You won’t squirm in your seat with embarrassment. Instead, you’ll ride the big exuberance of this thing.
If you’re a certain age, replaying the original cast album only makes you wonder what those drugs did to your aesthetics.
The characters of Jepoy Ramos (Claude’s friend Berger) and Rotimi Agabbiaka (Hud), had considerably more spine than Claude – and were consequently more charismatic, more energetic, more interesting than their feckless companion. Both so Ramos and Agabbiaka so fully occupied their characters that they didn’t seem like ’60’s cartoons of radical chic – despite being drawn as such. Indiia Wilmott, as Natalie, completely knocked my socks off every time she sang.
Small nits were choreography – which at times felt like the tribe suffered from St. Vitus dance – and heavy-handed percussion . Heavy beats slicing though ethereal “Hashish,” and other dreamy numbers tends to ruin the buzz. Nits aside, this BAM production, staged in the 1908 funky Victoria Theatre, is worth catching.
Smoke ’em if you got ’em.
Photo credit: Ben Krantz