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Starshine Age

[whitespace] Hair Blast From the Past: The hippies (from left, Kevin Lindsey, Robin Menzel, Josh Macrae, Julie Gold, Klyana Williams and Joann Carbonara) in 'Hair.'

The '60s live again in City Lights' 'Hair'

By Heather Zimmerman

A FLIER FOR a "be-in" handed out during City Lights Theater Company's current production of Hair good-humoredly advertises "all the dirty words and less clothes than you remember," effectively summing up the company's philosophy of presenting unique works that often fly in the face of traditional social mores--which is also the best explanation for why Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot's musical celebration of hippie life may be the perfect show for City Lights. The company ends its season with Hair in a wildly energetic production that clearly relishes every countercultural moment.

Director/designer Rob Hamilton's set transforms the entire theater. The seating is re-arranged to be almost in the round. Two-story scaffolding and platforms on the seating units themselves add interesting levels. Glittery Christmas lights, rugs and slogans of peace decorate the walls and floor. All in all, the place becomes a cool hippie crash pad, complete with its own live band. Hamilton and choreographer Anne Marie Hunter have made the most of City Lights' cozy performance space, rendering it even more intimate by threading the action and the choreography through the house--almost literally in audience's laps. The play's reefer-smoking rebels are in our faces with their defiance while simultaneously inviting us to join them in their quest for peace and love.

Backed by an excellent live band, the ensemble cast tackles favorites such as "The Age of Aquarius" and "Good Morning, Starshine" and lesser-known songs alike with vivacious aplomb. With their meandering, discordant melodies, some of the more-unfamiliar tunes have remained relatively obscure for obvious reasons. The musical consists almost entirely of songs, with very little dialogue, so it can be frustrating that the lyrics aren't always easy to hear, and the less-tuneful selections seem to contribute to the occasionally garbled diction. Nevertheless, in most of these instances, Hunter's sprawling, joyously spacy choreography illustrates for the eyes what the ears may miss. And the cast boasts some strong singers and dancers.

Not all of the cultural references are as easy to recognize as tie-dye and love beads for those of us born post-Woodstock, so as a nostalgia trip, Hair is probably best enjoyed by those who can truly appreciate the nuances of this loving tribute to '60s counterculture. The musical's message of giving peace a chance, however, has proven as timeless and universal as the progressive legacies of that groundbreaking era, traces of which we still enjoy today.

Hair plays Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 7pm through July 24 at City Lights Theater Company, 529 S. Second St., San Jose. Tickets are $20 Friday-Saturday, $15 Thursday and Sunday. (408/295-4200)

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From the June 24-30, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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