THEATER REVIEW: “Hair” @ the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Roseann Cane
I was just shy of 15 when Hair opened off-Broadway and began to cause a stir in 1967, a pivotal time in American culture. When a significantly revised version of the show opened on Broadway in 1968, it rapidly permeated the culture it reflected. It’s impossible to overstate the national turbulence caused by the war in Vietnam, the terror that the draft imposed on students and families, the frequent public protests in cities, suburbia, on college campuses and even in high schools. The war felt that much more personal because it was televised right in our living rooms, a new experience then.
Concurrently, the free-spirited hippie counterculture blossomed, with its commitment to peace, political awareness, love, sexual freedom, spontaneity and drug experimentation.
Hair was a widely celebrated, groundbreaking musical. Because so many of its songs were covered by popular artists, and heard on radios across the nation, its fame reached far beyond the New York stage to make the show an international sensation.
With its multiracial cast, brazen sexuality and mostly whimsical nature, with its actors (or the Tribe) frequently mingling with the audience, no theatergoer had ever seen anything like it. It also became famous because of its notorious nude scene, which was probably far less shocking than prospective audience members imagined: the Tribe rapidly undressed and stood proudly naked in a line downstage for a moment at the end of the first act.
The exuberant young Tribe now celebrating Hair at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge is percolating with joie de vivre. I was enormously gratified to hear the songs that helped shape my adolescence presented by lush and powerful singing voices, including those of the stunning Latoya Edwards (Dionne), sexy Brandon Contreras (Berger) and lusty Eric R. Williams (Hud). As Sheila, Kayla Foster’s poignant rendition of “Easy to Be Hard” was arresting and memorable; an adorable trio of castmates – Livvy Marcus (Jeanie), Sarah Sun Park (Tribe ensemble) and Katie Birenboim (Crissy) – joined in a charming presentation of “Air.” Will Porter (Woof) offers a hilarious delivery of “Sodomy.” As Claude, Andrew Cekala’s portrayal of a young man faced with a heart-wrenching decision is tremendously touching.