Review: ‘Out Of Site Haight Ashbury’: A Performance Driven Queer History Tour from EyeZen Presents (*****)

Tina D’Elia portrays Hibisus and Peggy Cacerta in “Out Of Site: Haight Ashbury”

by Charles Kruger

Reviewed by a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle.

EyeZen Presents specializes in live theatre that tells stories of LGBTQ history around San Francisco. This includes the series of street theatre performances called “OUT Of Site” which are presented as walking tours featuring performances that recreate the LGBTQ history of the neighborhoods being explored. Previous adventures have taken place in the SOMA neighborhood and in North Beach (the latter production was reviewed by TheatreStorm in 2018).

The current production, which has grown out of EyeZen’s residency with San Francisco Heritage, brings us back to the heyday of the Haight.

It is not widely recognized that gay liberation in San Franciso had its roots in the Summer of Love and the hippie community, whose “anything goes” sexual freedom encouraged queers of all sorts to explore their sexuality and eventually led them to create the gay community that grew into the Castro. But before The Castro there was the Haight, where everybody was a freak. 

Michelle Carter’s excellent script for “Out Of Site: Haight Ashbury” focusses on two influential queer characters of the era: lesbian clothing designer, Peggy Caserta, and flamboyant hippie drag performer, Hibiscus.

Peggy Caserta was one of Janice Joplin’s many lovers, and her Haight street clothing store, Mnasidika, introduced bell bottoms to the world (after she successfully persuaded Levi’s to manufacture them to her design). Hibiscus was the founder of the fabulous Cockettes theatre company, and perhaps one of the most famous of all hippies,  having been  photographed planting a flower into the barrel of a gun during an anti-Vietnam War demonstration. 

The stories of these two queer persons are ideally fitted to weave together the many strands of the Haight Ashbury Queer story, including politics, culture, fashion, theatre, and the tragic interwoven stories of drug addictions and AIDs which cannot be separated from the history. 

Tina D’Elia’s polished performance as Peggy and Hibiscus is an astonishing delight. She not only brings these two icons to life, but, with the help of an excellent design team, she brings us the entire Haight Ashbury community, including an almost uncanny evocation of Janice Joplin. Leading us from the corner of Haight Ashbury on a walking tour that takes us into Golden Gate Park she magically transports us back in time until we are actually experiencing our own small hippie happening among the trees. 

Nothing could be more magical. 

“Out Of Site Haight Ashbury” continues weekend performances in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood through July 25th. For further information, click here.

Rating: ***** (For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

‘Out of Site Haight Ashbury’ by Michelle Carter, presented by EyeZen Productions. Director: Seth Eisen. Assistant Director: Lauren Brazell. Technical Director: Erin Gibb. Costume Design: Jessica McKee. Sound Design: Jules Indelicato. Visual Design: Win Mixter. Graphic Designer: Mysh Rozanov.

Featuring Tina D’Elia as Peggy Caserta and Hibiscus. 

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