Sunday, October 12, 2008
I just got home from an amazing afternoon of theatre. My friend, Dahlia, who also starred in my Summer show Standing Still, was in a production of Hair at the University of South Florida, and she got the missus and me a couple of tickets. Oh...My...God! What a show! I had only seen the movie, and wondered why the show was still considered a classic, but now I understand. I don't know if I can convey to you with mere words the gamut of emotions evoked by this incredible play. The music is amazing, and most of the singers were well up to the task. The plot is paper thin, but makes perfect sense since the entire thing comes from the minds of the perpetually stoned hippies that make up the cast. The songs jump from theme to theme with little reason, but plenty of rhyme, and seem tailor made to piss off anyone who always colors inside the lines. There is vulgarity, scatological humor, and a fair bit of nudity by both genders, but amazingly none of it seems gratuitous. In fact at the end of act one the entire cast strips completely naked and sings the final few bars of the song directly to the audience. On the surface one would think that seeing 20 or so young, fit men and women completely naked would be erotic, but it is actually the opposite. Rather than them being made vulnerable in their nudity they became empowered by it, almost saying 'fuck you for being clothed!' It was a powerful moment.
Act two gets a bit heavier when one of the main characters, there really isn't a lead per se, gets drafted and goes to fight in the Viet Nam war. We don't really know if he lives or dies, and I found the final number, Let the Sunshine In to be somewhat ambiguous with some of the singers smiling, and others seeming angry, and I loved that ambiguity. This show did not spoon feed me one thing.
As for my friend's performance I have nothing but praise. I have seen her in several shows now, and even had the unparalleled honor of directing her, but this was her finest performance I have seen to date. She played a pregnant hippie chick who is in love with the guy to goes to war, and is a bit unhinged. When she first came out on stage it took me a while to realize who she was. She totally submerged herself in the part, and her solo sounded nothing like the woman I know off stage. I always knew she had talent, and it is gratifying to see it grow and mature.
As many of you know, I have been doing theatre for nearly two-thirds of my life, and I don't impress easily. Most of the time I find it difficult, or impossible to enjoy a show and not notice the technical aspects and/or mistakes. This show kept me rapt and focused on the players, and I appreciate that more than anything. Normally I feel that standing ovations are given far to easily, and too often, but when the curtain call began I was one of the first people on my feet. This is what theatre is supposed to do. It is supposed to engage the emotions as well as the senses, and even when the story is vague and somewhat random, the mind. USF's Hair did all that. It will go down in my mental scrapbook as one of the finest theatrical experiences of my life. My only regret is that today was the closing show, because I would have loved to see it again...and again.