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The Psychedelic Age of Aquarius Shines with “Hair” at Signature Theatre

The Psychedelic Age of Aquarius Shines with “Hair” at Signature Theatre

Signature Theatre
Jordan Wright
April 28, 2024
Special to The Zebra

Peace signs, African beads, bellbottoms, tie dyed t-shirts, dashikis and fringe jackets. Sound familiar? If not, you were born long after the Peace Movement and hippie culture radicalized the American landscape. Created organically as a result of Nixon and Reagan politics and the Vietnam war, and framed by marijuana, LSD and peyote, this movement defined the late 60’s and early 70’s spreading out from California (doesn’t everything?) through the heartland to the East Coast. Communal living and free love, before the age of AIDS, generated a free and open spirit that saw a multitude of campus protests, countrywide activism, the start of the new women’s movement and the ascension of Black Power.

Olivia Puckett (Sheila), Jordan Dobson (Claude), and Mason Reeves (Berger) (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

The world was changing, and it was not driven by political insiders, but by student activists, American youth and the mood of a country fed up with the graphic nightly broadcasting of the Vietnam war. This political shift was emblematic of the nation’s divisions. Three men caught this shift in the mood of the country. They were Gerome RagniJames Rado and Galt Macdermot who collaborated on one of the first rock musicals ever written in the age of Aquarius and they called it Hair to reflect the polarization of the long-haired youth and the straight, predominantly White ruling culture. This radical experiment in musical theatre elevated the movement and gave it a beautiful and complex voice. I first saw it in the mid-60’s at Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival Theatre on a small stage and it was magical – encapsulating everything the counter culture movement was trying to say and the political machine it was up against.

Director Matthew Gardiner has seized the vibe and faithfully respected its original purpose. As an interactive piece that often breaks the fourth wall, it allows the audience to share the emotions and passions of its characters – fifteen strong-minded youths with racially diverse middle-class backgrounds, living together – and not always getting by – but always getting high.

The cast of HAIR at Signature Theatre (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

Forty numbers give voice to the relevant interests of American youth – fear of 1-A draft status, fascination with the British Invasion “Manchester England”, sex, Aretha, Hendrix, festivals and love-ins, East Indian culture and flower power. It’s what’s happening, baby. Even if you didn’t live it, it’s resurgence echoes in the current Boho fashion style with macrame and peace signs. Wait! Where’s my mood ring? Even Margaret Mead makes an appearance to investigate the scene – for anthropological research, of course.

Backgrounded with video projections of the era, and a kick-ass 9-piece band conducted by Angie Benson, this production will catapult you to a moment in time that revolutionized music, art, politics and culture – a time when there were bad trips and good times. A time of activism, questionable wars and the malaise of youth happening yet again on college campuses today.

Noah Israel (Woof), Mason Reeves (Berger), Keenan McCarter (Steve) (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

Ashleigh King’s hyper-energetic choreography focusses on Dance, Dance, Dance with this multi-talented, hyper-exuberant ensemble. You can sense the cast is loving the atmosphere Gardiner has created for them to explore. Coupled with Paige Hathaway’s set design incorporating iconography of the period, it is a brave, exuberant and immersive experience.

Highly recommended!

Jordan Dobson (Claude) (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

With Jordan Dobson as Claude; Amanda Lee as Dionne; Mason Reeves as Berger; Noah Israel as Woof; Solomon Parker III as Hud; Olivia Puckett as Sheila; Nora Palka as Jeanie; Caroline Graham as Crissy; Jamie Goodson as Suzannah/Mother; Keenan McCarter as Steve/Father; Nolan Montgomery as Jonathan/Margaret Mead; Greg Twomey as Paul/Hubert; Savannah Blackwell as Lorrie; Patrick Leonardo Casimir as Walter; and Alex De Bard as Emmaretta.

Lighting by Jason Lyons; Sound Design by Eric Norris; Video Design by Patrick W. Lord; Wig Design by Anne Nesmith; Fight Choreographer Casey Kaleba; Resident Intimacy Consultant and Choreographer Chelsea Pace.

Through July 7, 2024 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, in Shirlington Village, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 820-9771 or visit

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