Regional Reviews: San Diego
Hair as nostalgia, what a concept. But maybe so. A large portion of the Globe's audience may well have seen Hair in their youth, when long hair and ragged clothes were a sign of rebellion against "the establishment," something that certainly needed to be rebelled against. And the Globe's audience is the establishment, an irony that may not be lost on the talented performers and James Vásquez, their director.
If they're chattering about nostalgia backstage, it doesn't show onstage. The cast puts on David Israel Reynoso's stellar costumes and goes on singing their hearts out under Angela Steiner's beautifully blended musical direction. They hit their marks, pick up their cues, and play off of each other merrily, all signs of excellent stage direction. But, there's one thing missing: love.
I mention "love" because Mr. Vásquez often engenders it in his cast members. I recall noting so in a review of Mr. Vásquez's production of [title of show]. I wrote that he must have convinced his talented cast that the only way to make this disconnected source material work was to play it as if the cast members were madly in love with each other.
There's a bit of that style in some of the performances here. Jeanie (Jaygee Macapugay) is pregnant and wishing that handsome, dreamy Claude (Tyler Hardwick) were the father, even though she knows he isn't. Woof (Angel Lozada) loves to lovehe sings the song "Sodomy"and he's especially in love with Mick Jagger. In this production, Woof wears a skirt and would probably use they/them as pronouns.
But, love is often played as a gag, as when Berger (Andrew Polec), who dresses in a loincloth and styles himself to be the tribe's chief, engineers a three-way kiss with Claude and Sheila (Storm Lever) but ends up kissing only Claude, to his disgust. So, love is infatuation, a prank, or a slogan. Love's a little hard to engender when the show's text works against it. And the show stays disconnected as a result
The cast settles instead for a laid-back, cool vibe, which is a good choice. If this Hair trades in nostalgia, it might as well trade gently, rather than angrily. Which makes the smooth ballads work bestparticularly as many of them are led by the satin-voiced Ms. Lever. Bailey Day Sonner as Chrissy and Nyla Sostre as Dionne have a few opportunities to contribute to the vibe, and ensemble members Leo Ebanks, Luke H. Jacobs, Patricia Jewel, Delaney Love, Alfie Parker, Jr., Christopher M. Ramirez, Bethany Slomka, and Justine Vasquez often play small roles in big, hilarious ways.
The war in Vietnam is a distant memory, the draft morphed into an all-volunteer military, and the air is still everywhere. We're tied to fossil fuels to everyone's detriment and there's a big, decommissioned nuclear power plant conspicuously visible from Interstate 5. Black Lives Matter, yesand some truly offensive material was cut from this productionbut race and ethnicity are no big deal in this tribe. Even LSD, the consumption of which presages a long second-act hallucinatory trip, has made a comeback as a drug with therapeutic utility.
The tribes camped out in urban areas are more likely to be older and homeless, not younger and full of determination to rebel against their parents. Still, Hair endures as a sometimes painful tribute to something called "youth culture."
Hair runs through October 3, 2021, in San Diego's Balboa Park, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego CA. For information and tickets, visit www.theoldglobe.org or call 619-234-5623.
Choreography: Mayte Natalio