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Beautiful, long ‘Hair’

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Developed in 1967, “Hair” is more experience than narrative, immersing the audience in the culture and conflicts of the 1960s through mostly great songs and loosely connected scenes.

It bravely tackled taboo issues of the time, including the hippie lifestyle, civil rights, drug use, the sexual revolution and the antiwar movement. What story there is revolves around friends Berger and Claude, and the so-called tribe of artists, activists and astral projectors revolving around them.

Reduxion Theatre succeeds in creating a psychedelic theatrical experience with a combination of set, lighting, costumes and sound, but above all, through the free-spirited performances of the cast. Unfortunately, the already-thin narrative gets a little lost in the haze at times, making it hard to connect emotionally with the plight of some supporting characters.

Noticeably longer than a previous version I’d seen, Reduxion’s production, while rich and full of beautiful moments, loses some steam in Act 2 as the show’s schizophrenic nature gets in the way of the escalating dramatic stakes, and awareness of the nearly three-hour runtime begins to creep in.

As draft-doomed dreamer Claude, Charlie Monnot is absolutely believable playing a half-his-age character both admired and desired by his peers. Doing his best to steal the show up front, as he should, is Nick Orfanella as Berger. Trading in his pants for a loincloth in the first few
minutes, he does a great job of setting the evening’s fun, fearless
tone.

As Dionne, Cristela Carrizales doesn’t have much of a character, but shines brilliantly as a vocal diva, providing the heart and soul for several of “Hair”’s most memorable songs.

Continuing a trend set in Reduxion’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” both Kaleb Bruza and Kyle Gossett deliver first-rate work in supporting roles. The entire cast deserves praise for throwing themselves so fully into “Hair”’s world.

Director Tyler Woods takes on the material with gusto, creating an immersive production that holds up incredibly well after 44 years. While some aspects have become cliché, there’s still plenty to make the more conservative members of the audience squirm, and that’s a damn good thing.

While numerous scenes are praiseworthy, the extended drug trip is executed with a kind of mad brilliance. The vocal performances are generally quite good, accompanied by a small musical ensemble under the direction of Steve Kennedy. Some of the singing comes off as too “musical theater” and not rock ’n’ roll enough.

Overall, while a little long, “Hair” is a trip worth taking.

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