Gerome Ragni William Kloman - Essay

William Kloman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Hair" will be the "West Side Story" of the sixties. The difference between the two shows illustrates how far we've come in a decade. "West Side Story" had vigorous music, but a smarmy social conscience. It now seems awfully dated. In good liberal fashion, it romanticized the lower classes to within an inch of their downtrodden lives. Events have outrun its message, and the vision of slum gangs dancing into battle would probably strike today's young audience as odd, if not funny….

"Hair's" godparents are Marshall McLuhan and Herbert Marcuse, the prophet of polymorphous perversity…. Love, in "Hair," comes interracial, intrasexual, and in multiples of three. As well as the regular way….

"Marat/Sade," and now "Hair," bear the same relationship to an Ibsen play that a collage does to a realistic landscape. The new theater insists that its audience relinquish their demand for traditional structure. "A play is not a novel," it says. "A play is a collage of dramatic effects which calls for groovin', not understanding."…

"Hair" is a celebration, not a story. It celebrates the human body, marijuana, love and sex. For the first time on a Broadway stage, the human body is shown completely naked. That, too, is part of the collage we are asked to dig. The gesture is graceful and affecting. To ask what the scene "means" is to miss the point and to force drama back into the tired categories our best playwrights would like to overcome….

"Hair's" presence helps restore relevance to the theater itself. For too long, drama has failed to affect, to touch or involve audiences. Beside a play like "Hair," the plays of Tennessee Williams, for example, seem like exercises in voyeurism….

"Hair" is a transitional piece of drama. Perhaps the final glorification of the visible revolution.

William Kloman, "'2001' and 'Hair'—Are They the Groove of the Future?" in The New York Times (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 12, 1968, p. 15.∗