Monday, August 11, 2008

I Got Life, Mother (And Grandma)

This summer's Shakespeare in the Park presented by The Public Theatre brings us a production of the "tribal-rock musical" Hair.

Hair opened in New York 41 years ago at the Public and this mounting is a fleshed out production of the 40th anniversary concert version that was presented last year. The show is firmly rooted in experimental and political theatre of the sixties as it tells a loose story about a group of hippies, students and social outcasts living in New York. The "tribe" faces a new set of issues when one of their own, Claude (played by Jonathon Groff) decides not to burn his draft card and he is subsequently drafted and goes off to fight in Vietnam.

In between all that, the show deals with sexuality, drugs, relationships, race, and everything else under the sun. It's almost plotless, but it's not quite a review. It's more like a collage of scenes and songs that have characters and little plot thrown in for some fun.

What's interesting about Hair is how fresh it still is today, while still being firmly rooted in it's own time. No literal attempts have been made at putting modern flourishes on the show. Of course we are looking at the show through the eyes of 2008, and when someone talks about war, we can't help but remember the fact that we are going through one and people are dying still today, even after all this anti-war activism.

Personally, the ideals behind Hair seem, well... idealistic. As a young person today, I can't quite grasp how these people believed so passionately in their causes. My generation of 20-somethings seems to lack the general know how to host a classy cocktail party let alone attempt to change the world. And of course, we in 2008 know that the hippies didn't change the world. Their revolution never actually happened.

But at the shows finale, the uplifting yet harrowing benediction that cries out "Let the Sunshine In", you can't help but be swept up in the show's message of peace and love, and want to do something about the state of the world.