Edit ModuleShow Tags

OB Playhouse's 'Hair' Is a High-Energy Ode to the 1960s

The Age of Aquarius dawns at the intimate Ocean Beach theater


Published:

The cast of Hair, at OB Playhouse.

If you’re seeing Hair for the first time, it really helps to know what you’re getting into.

For all of us who didn’t live through it, our perceptions of the 1960s hippie movement come mostly from media that sanitized and repackaged it decades later to fit a constructed narrative, ranging from the well-researched but stylized Mad Men to the cartoonishly reductive Forrest Gump. The characters of Hair are so much larger than life that you’d be forgiven for assuming it was just another nostalgia trip—it makes a world of difference to know it was made contemporaneous with its setting; practically a primary source, its leads autobiographical. These kids aren’t emulating some previous generation’s idea of the counterculture; their wild outfits aren’t ironic Halloween costumes. For them the idea of cultural revolution is not just revelatory but imminent. For the first time in history, you were not predestined to become a carbon copy of your parents. You could make the choice not to go to war when the state demanded it. The sense of endless possibility must have been dazzling, and director Jennie Gray Connard has deftly recreated that feeling here in Ocean Beach.

The show has little in the way of plot: a “tribe” of teenage dropouts living in the East Village celebrates love, makes occasional extraterrestrial-like contact with squares, hallucinates a revisionist American history, and rallies together to resist the draft. Many of the songs are thematic rather than expository, word clouds that revel in cheeky profanity, environmental and institutional paranoia, and lustful joy, all of which—it’s important to remember in our age of statecraft via Twitter—were groundbreaking and scandalous in 1968. The fact that you could sing about cunnilingus, have white women croon that “black boys are delicious” (and vice versa), or have the entire cast strip naked as an act of protest, was part of the point.

Hair deserves to be seen in a theater as intimate as OB Playhouse. Being able to clearly see the actors’ faces amplifies the connections they’re seeking to make with you, and if you’re anywhere near an aisle seat, be advised that they will invite you to the Be-In. I was lucky enough to see the 2009 Broadway revival at both the Al Hirschfeld Theatre and the Delacorte, and Gavin Creel may have been nominated for a Tony, but I feel confident in saying that Christopher Chiles is an even better Claude. From the infectiously playful bounce of “Manchester England” to the paralyzing uncertainty of “Where Do I Go?”, he lays his heart bare.

Berger is in some ways an unenviable role; the tribe’s ringmaster has to provide the initial shock to the audience’s system—you’re not in Kansas anymore—and then sustain that manic center of gravity the rest of the tribe whirls around for nearly the whole first act. But Justin Tuazon is on point, embodying adolescent cocksuredness and keeping the energy high everywhere it’s needed. I wish I had the space to praise every cast member individually, since there’s not a dud in the bunch. Krista Feallock brings an excellent mix of gentleness and righteous fury to Sheila—somebody write a Joan Baez biopic for her to star in, stat. Stephanie Nesbitt’s turn as Lincoln for “Abie Baby” is the single most impressive vocal performance of the night. And keep an eye on Delia A. Mejia who, though often just one voice in the chorus, stands out with touching awe and mourning in numbers like “How Dare They Try [to End This Beauty].”

Go see it. I have nothing negative to say. You’ll have a fantastic time, especially if you’re not afraid to join the cast on stage at the end and dance.


Through July 1
Tickets at obtheatrecompany.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

The Body-Positive 'Hairspray' Is a Riot and a Wild Ride

San Diego Musical Theatre stages the high-camp classic about breaking down barriers to representation

3 Beer Festivals Happening This Month in San Diego

Wet your whistle with some of the finest suds from America’s Finest City and the world over

The Best Outdoor Movies in San Diego This Summer

Grab a blanket and some snacks. You’ll want to see these flicks at some of the best al fresco venues around town.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Best of San Diego Party 2018
  2. Good Night, Cafe Chloe
    San Diego’s beloved French bistro is closing due to California’s unfair labor laws
  3. 5 Hot San Diego Pools That Are Open to the Public
    Where to go for lounging, sipping, dipping, or attending a grown-up pool party
  4. The Best of San Diego 2018
    We crown 103 winners in food, shopping, fitness, kids’ activities, and more
  5. Javier Plascencia Eyes Barrio Logan
    The award-winning chef is all over Mexico, but looks to make a San Diego comeback
  6. Stop Killing Chloes
    How California is very knowingly killing the mom and pop restaurant
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module