Medium hair day

Her Burning Tresses

WOW Cafe
59 E. 4th St. (closed)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

To appreciate the breadth of literature that has been inspired by hair, look no further than Rapunzel, Samson and Delilah, the impoverished lovers in Gift of the Magi, the hippies of Hair ... or any of the musicians, comedians or performance artists who took the stage during WOW Cafe's "Hair Feast" last month. The lesbian theatre collective devoted nine evenings to the subject of hair in a revue titled Her Burning Tresses. The lineup of performers changed every night.

Largely spontaneous and occasionally multimedia, Her Burning Tresses was a variety show in which women sang, joked, and complained about their experiences with hair. Performers also seized the opportunity to vent in favor of lesbian pride and sisterhood.

One night, for example, host Vivian Babuts opened the show by reading a letter she had recently received from her father, who was alarmed at the Village Voice's description of the show as being about, among other things, "long-haired butches, and kinky sex with straight hair." To reassure her absent father that hair - not sexuality - was the main subject, Babuts wore a voluminous blond wig while doing a striptease.

That evening's entertainers included two singers who put their hair woes to music. Folksinger Carolyn Farhie played the electric guitar while singing the "Hairy Jew Blues." In an unplanned coincidence, she was followed by Gabriella Callender, who used an acoustic guitar but a similar idea in "Bad Hair Day Blues."

The personable and enthusiastic Jess Dobkin appeared in three vignettes. She played Cindy Crawford in a spoof of the magazine cover on which Crawford gave lesbian icon k.d. lang (Jayne Weber) a shave. Later, Dobkin pulled a volunteer from the audience to demonstrate her new Lesbian Hair Analysis Machine. The contraption Dobkin constructed to "psychoanalyze" the volunteer through a strand of her hair was more clever than her ad-libbed jokes. Dobkin showed a good sense of improvisational humor in a third sketch in which she called a friend who was working at a gay bookstore to interview female customers about their hair. Dobkin's plan for interviews "via satellite" (a.k.a. speakerphone) failed, however, when the friend reported that the only customers were "guys cruising each other and browsing porno magazines."

There were also some solid laughs in Christine Collins's monologue about an adolescent perm nightmare and her lifelong disagreement with her mother over hair. Collins evinced a gift for stand-up comedy with a very natural and smooth delivery of her mostly improvised material. Monica Mei's solo skit about a radio call-in show for people with hair problems was less successful. Like most of the material in Her Burning Tresses, however, it had potential that couldn't be realized in a raw production like this. Many of these vignettes would probably work as polished scripts, given their appeal with the minimal props and rewriting deployed at WOW. (Also featuring Carol Rosenfeld, Marcia Salo, Felice Shays, and Deborah Edmeades.)

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing N/A
Acting 1
Set N/A
Costumes N/A
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1997 Adrienne Onofri

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