Love-Crazed ‘Hair’ Returns; Durang’s Grisly ‘Vacation’: Review

The cast of the musical "Hair" revival. Photographer: Joan Marcus/O & M Co. via Bloomberg

“Hair” is back on Broadway, its happy hippies dancing in the aisles and clambering over startled theatergoers.

A year after the 2009 edition of the musical closed, the national tour is in New York for two months. A booking in Asia fell through, presenting an opportunity for the producers, including the Public Theater, to sell diehards and tourists on one more summer of love.

Its anti-war message still hits home, given Barack Obama’s failure to be the political game-changer many had hoped.

Paris Remillard is a charismatic Claude, capturing the innocence of the “genius genius” who believes in God and believes that God believes in Claude. His refusal to burn his draft card gives the trippy proceedings its heft.

Steel Burkhardt is a beefy Berger, who does handstands and cartwheels onstage. He has the rambunctiousness of Will Swenson, his Broadway predecessor, if not Swenson’s star presence. Caren Lyn Tackett is a standout Sheila, who sings the affecting ballad “Easy to be Hard.”

Under Diane Paulus’s direction, the young troupe’s energy is admirable, but several performers more resemble clean-cut models from Benetton ads than ragtag 1960s renegades. And the pruned topiary of the lady hippies reminds us that we’re in 2011.

Through Sept. 10 at the St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St. Information: +1-239-6200; Rating: **1/2

‘Betty’s Summer Vacation’

A sign in the lobby at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre promises that “Betty’s Summer Vacation” contains “wickedly strong language and shockingly sexual frankness.”

The sex is generally offstage and includes rape and incest. The vacation is not one you’d want to take yourself.

Christopher Durang’s 1999 farce deposits a half-dozen souls, mostly eccentrics, in a bright, inviting summer house by the water. (The set is by Walt Spangler.) Bad, violent things happen, underscored by offstage laughter.

Eventually, the play evolves into a prescient if grating critique of celebrity-obsessed pop culture.

Trip Cullman directs a splendid, game cast of actors familiar to New York theatergoers.

Celia Keenan-Bolger plays a hard-up young neurotic, John Behlmann an indiscriminate lothario, Bobby Steggert an amiable loner with a hat box he refuses to open. Heidi Schreck as the straight woman in the title role projects quiet intelligence and Veanne Cox as the house’s senior statesman lunatic is enviably manic.

Through July 30 at 1 Bay Street, Sag Harbor. Information: +1-631-725-9500, or Rating: **

What the Stars Mean:
****        Excellent
***         Very Good
**          Average
*           Not So Good
(No stars)  Avoid

(Philip Boroff is a writer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Philip Boroff in New York at

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