David Knoell and Wendy Joseph in SLAC's Hairy and Sherri

Hairy & Sherri @ SLAC: Sucker Punching the Myth of the Well-Intentioned Ally

Performance & Theatre

Hairy and Sherri
Salt Lake Acting Company

February 15–March 5, 2023
Wednesday–Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. & 6:00 p.m.

Wendy Joseph plays "Sherri" in Salt Lake Acting Company's Hairy & Sherri
Photo courtesy of Salt Lake Acting Company

Adrienne DawesHairy & Sherri, is a dark comedy depicting an interracial couple in gentrified East Austin, Texas who are looking to adopt a child. As they navigate this process, the couple’s marriage, seemingly steadfast in the opening scenes with the two cuddled up on the couch considering baby names, begins to falter. Hairy and Sherri, played by David Knoell and Wendy Joseph, struggle to communicate honestly about what one another needs, and their own quirks and neuroses become more apparent through a series of dance numbers they use to relay what they can’t communicate through words. Sherri wants to adopt a child who reflects her own background as a Black American while simultaneously working through her own trauma induced by her and her younger brother’s experience in the foster system. Sherri may have fallen in love with Hairy’s laidback nature and seemingly open mind, but his lack of motivation to educate himself about his wife and adopted son’s experiences pushes them both further away. 

The audience laughed as the two bickered across the stage at one another or while either Hairy or Sherri became drunk and the other scoffed at such careless indulgence. Their lack of taking much of anything seriously suggests that there might be more to uncover besides the two’s vested interests in being “woke” parents. Sheri’s jewelry line, “Think Piece,” takes up most of her time, while Hairy’s line of work consists of creating wooden sculptures that litter the corners and walls of the stage. The couple rambles across their living room boasting about being the coolest future parents while taking virtually no steps towards preparing for a life-changing decision—for them or their adopted son. 

David Knoell plays Hairy in SLAC's Hairy & Sherri
Photo courtesy of Salt Lake Acting Company

Though well-intentioned, their venture is struck by reality in the form of their indefatigable caseworker, Ms. Vera Castillo. Ms. Castillo, played by Yolanda Stange, unearths hard truths about what it will mean to welcome Ryshi, a young Black teenager, into their home. Through pauses and glances, Hairy, Sherri and Ms. Castillo ask the hard question of whether the couple has what it takes to keep one another happy and bring Ryshi into their life. Ms. Castillo finds Ryshi’s character at the beginning of the play hiding under a nearby table after his first foster family “gave him back.” This flashback is made evident as Ryshi is played by the younger Devin Losser, while the older Ryshi, played by Kiirt Banks, is introduced to the couple for the first time on Christmas morning. 

Hairy and Sherri communicate via physical activities, such as dancing or being intimate, over verbally articulating how they feel. The rest of the stage was in low light while the spotlight shone on Ryshi rocking in his bed with his hands over his ears, trying to block out the loud music and noises coming from Hairy and Sherri’s off-stage bedroom. The play ends in a nearly identical way to how it began: a dark set with a soft spotlight on Ryshi and Ms. Castillo. The two embrace as the lights fade and Ms. Castillo whispers promises to take care of Ryshi after the ill-equipped and well-intentioned couple can’t.

In Hairy & Sherri, unexpected storylines come together to form a useful narrative for people of all ages to learn about relationships. Dawes skillfully weaves topics of race, class, relationships, the foster care system and more as the play’s cadence bounces from humorful to deeply gut-wrenching. –Olivia Greene

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