HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH

Posted: August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Imagine. It’s 1988. You are a young, early 20s something girly man living in East Berlin, a city literally divided by a wall that separates you from an entirely different world, — a world  of freedom and power that manifests itself in the likes of glam rock, American Armed Forces Radio, McDonald’s Big Macs, and deliciously chewy Gummy Bears.

You spend your days singing Lou Reed and David Bowie songs with your head in the oven, – an oven which is located in the kitchen of a cramped, government-built apartment you share with your emotionally detached mother who sculpts pottery in the shower.

Then one day, you meet an American GI near that wall that separates you from another life. He wants to marry you and whisk you away to that other world which had always been forbidden, – a world so close yet so far away. There’s only one problem: you’re a boy and so is he. In order to escape, you must leave something behind …

Cut, cut. Snip, snip. Nip, tuck, paste. Passports and body parts.

But it doesn’t go so well, and a part of that thing you left behind remains, — a tiny nub, about an inch long, containing within it, a life-time full of rage.

Flash forward one year later – 1989. You’re sitting in your mobile home, in that paradise of freedom known as Junction City, Kansas,  – ALONE! That soldier boy for whom you had sacrificed so much just ran off with someone new, and there you sit, watching on TV that wall, the wall that kept you imprisoned for so long; it has now crumbled to the ground and lies in a mound of celebratory rubble … Talk about bad luck and bad timing!

And this is only half the story that comprises the electrifying and engaging, new collaborative work between Balagan Theater and STG in their production of the hit misfit musical with a cult-like following, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which first made the stage in 1998.

Jerick Hoffer, who plays the brash and outlandish, yet introspective lead character, Hedwig, gives an amazingly powerful performance. He is funny, mature, endearing, and completely believable in the role. His vocal range is astonishing, and the energy that he exudes is infectious. He, quite literally, had the audience dancing in the aisles by the end of the show on opening night.

Despite having his show played in the immense theater that is The Moore, Director Ian Bell manages to keep the gritty feel of a dive bar in which Hedwig and her band, The Angry Inch, play their rock and roll show.  They perform in the shadows of her now successful former lover, Tommy Gnosis, who plays in the bigger venue across the way.

Bell makes good use of projections throughout the show to help keep his audience attentive and to illustrate some of the play’s major themes and events. In particular, his projected animation during the “Origin of Love” song, which is based on Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium, was particularly effective. In it, Aristophanes explains how, originally, humans were born attached to another. There were men attached to men; women attached to women; and men attached to women. But angry gods split them apart, leaving them yearning to find their other half. That is what we call love.

And this leads me to another positive aspect about the show: the music is actually good!  It has depth, intricacy, and is charged with emotion. It serves to advance the story and to illuminate the psychology of its complex protagonist.

For someone who does not normally like musicals, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It had great music, an interesting premise, and a wonderfully engaging lead character with whom anyone who has ever been shunned, cast aside, or misunderstood could easily relate!  And Jerrick Hoffer was fantastic!

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is now showing at the Moore Theatre in downtown Seattle, January 15 – 27.  For tickets, visit stgpresents.orgss-tues

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