Gerome Ragni Theophilus Lewis - Essay

Theophilus Lewis

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Hair] is a saturnalia in scatology that voices the revolt of the hippie generation, which rejects all traditional values of the social order, as well as the amenities of civilized living. There is no story, at least not one your observer could detect, only a mélange of what a few years ago were regarded as indecencies.

If the American theatre is performing its constitutional function according to Hamlet's prescription—that is, reflecting the form and pressure of the time—we are living in the most licentious era since the age of the Caesars. Perhaps Restoration society was more dissolute, but it could hardly have been more vulgar. In Hair we may be observing a Hogarthian canvas of a nation in decline….

It is not likely that any really adult spectator will be shocked by the uninhibited exposure of the human anatomy. Far more offensive are the disrespectful handling of the flag and the sacrilegious mockery of the Christian liturgy. One doubts that the impieties are representative of the vagaries of hippies, who seem to be passively alienated from current materialist pressures rather than aggressively hostile to the residue of spiritual forces in the modern world. Youths with anti-religious convictions are hardly likely to offer flowers to strangers…. (p. 759)

Since there is no coherent story, nomenclature is a problem. It is not a satire, a revue or any other type of conventional music. Perhaps New York's mayor would call it a happening. As a sight show, Hair is highly amusing….

Aside from its gratuitous obscenities and derision of things sacred, Hair is novel and highly diverting. (p. 760)

Theophilus Lewis, "Theatre: 'Hair'," in America (© America Press, 1968; all rights reserved), Vol. 118, No. 23, June 8, 1968, pp. 759-60.