The Keegan Theatre’s version of HAIR, with top-notch direction by husband and wife team Mark Rhea and Susan Marie Rhea, evokes the feel of the era without reproducing its exact look. Chelsey Schuller’s costume design adapts modern clothing… to give modern clothes a retro look, without using actual psychedelic patterns, bright colors, or hip-huggers. Scenic designer Matthew Keenan and props designer Carol Hood Baker subtly connect the protest movements of an earlier era to those of today, by including a peace symbol on a rainbow flag protest sign.
I remember the 60’s of my teenaged years as full of vibrant colors – light greens and oranges – that glowed in black light, and wild, often clashing patterns. Scenic designer Keenan and lighting designer Allan Sean Weeks instead chose to work with dim lighting and drab colors, except in a few scenes. The drabness is a clever choice by Keenan and Weeks, and by directors Mark and Susan Rhea; the decade did not, in fact, usher in the age of Aquarius but instead represented a grim era in American history when 57,000 Americans, most of them young, died in Vietnam.
The Keegan theatre’s small size lends itself perfectly to a show in which the cast members sing from the aisles, talk to individuals in the audience, and hand out flyers advocating peace as part of a “be-in.” Rachel Leigh Dolan’s choreography and the musical performances of such iconic numbers as “Aquarius,” “Hair,” “Good Morning Starshine,” and “Let the Sunshine In” under music director Jake Null are brilliant and energetic. Of course, many people will want to attend to see how the Rheas approach the equally iconic nude scene that ends the first act.
The cast is wonderful – especially equity member Paul Scanlan as Claude and Josh Sticklin as Berger. They and Caroline Wolfson as Sheila form the triangle that, even among those determined to usher in an era of love, can’t sort out their own feelings. Peter Finnegan steals the show as half of a small-town tourist couple determined to photograph hippies.