Catch 'Her Hair' Before It Goes
For the final show of the Unicorn Theatre’s season, playwright Zina Camblin gives us And Her Hair Went With Her, a funny and thought-provoking look at the modern African-American female. It’s a two-woman show, and both actresses portray a number of black women with various personalities… and personal issues.
The main characters, Jasmine and Angie, work in a hair salon owned by Jasmine (played by Nedra Dixon). Jasmine is your typical working-class small-business owner — addicted to fast food, American Idol, and relatively uninterested in anything of much larger scope. Jasmine’s co-worker and sometime-protégé, Angie (played by Teisha M. Bankston), is the opposite – a college-educated feminist with little patience for people who are ignorant about the issues facing black women today.
The banter between these two women (which – superficially – revolves around a competition for Nina Simone concert tickets), is periodically interrupted by the arrival of various customers. These customers are varied in age, socioeconomic status, educational level – and hairstyles. Conversations naturally develop, since it is a hair salon, and the audience eavesdrops. It feels almost like we are getting an inside look at what concerns black women most today.
People with thin skins could consider the ideas and attitudes expressed during these conversations controversial, perhaps borderline racist. But Camblin, the playwright, bravely holds a magnifying glass up to people in the African American community. She dares all of us in the audience, no matter what our race is, to pay attention to what resonates within us and to critically examine why people may develop certain ideas.
The only action that takes place outside of the hair salon is when Jasmine goes to interview a woman on death row, who was convicted of murdering her girlfriend’s boyfriend. These are show-stopping moments; Dixon portrays the transgender convict with a raw intensity and authenticity that is rarely seen in a fictional work of art.
I am glad to say that both women in the cast are more than up to the task of switching between hugely different characters in the amount of time that it takes to switch wigs. Many of them reminded me of people I know in my own life. This is testament to not only the actresses, but also to the playwright who sculpted the dialogue and to the director, Jacqueline Gafford, who is able to recognize and draw out the nuances of life that turn characters into people. In this regard, I also need to say a word of congratulations to costume designer Jon Fulton Adams and properties designer Ron Megee for coming up with such great costumes and accoutrements to give a sense of veracity to the show.
And Her Hair Went With Her is a relatively rare play where everything comes together. It brings up many topics that people wonder about but rarely discuss openly. In addition, the use of hairstyles to give clues to a person’s personality is clever and adds another layer of things to think about: What does our own hair say about us?
Go see the show, which closes May 23, and see what it reveals about you.