Monday, September 7, 2009

Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hi-Fi Concert Club

(Dan Folino as Hedwig)

When by the mighty hand of Jove
It was the sad story/How we became
Lonely two-legged creatures
It’s the story of/The origin of love

Yes, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is back in town. The text by John Cameron Mitchell and the punk-rock music and lyrics by Stephen Trask are still perfectly attuned to this story about a search for wholeness. But since it’s now occupying the small stage at the Hi-Fi Concert Club in Lakewood, the show has an even more intense vibe than it had in its previous incarnation at Cleveland Public Theatre.

Hedwig starts life as Hansel, an East German girlyboy, but he wants to run off with an American GI, Luther Robinson. So Hansel and his mother decide to arrange for a sex change operation, with ghastly results:

A one inch mound of flesh with a scar running down it/
Like a sideways grimace/On an eyeless face/
Just a little bulge/It was an angry inch.

Back in the title role he created at CPT, Dan Folino captures the screeching pain of Hedwig in that song. But he also finds much of the humor, be it light-hearted or mordant, which drives both Hedwig and this show. (At one point, Hedwig starts to light a cigarette, looks at the “No Smoking” symbol on the wall of the club, and slaps on a nicotine patch.)

And when it’s time to be self-reflective, Folino nails the sweet lyricism of “Wig in a Box:”

I put on some makeup/And some Lavern Baker/
And pull the wig down from the shelf/
Suddenly I’m Miss Beehive 1963/
Until I wake up/And turn back to myself.

When Hedwig sets off to support himself with his band, the Angry Inch, he meets young Tommy Speck and they write some songs together. Later, using the stage name that Hedwig gives him, Tommy Gnosis goes on to soaring fame while Hedwig is stuck playing to a few people in seedy dives.

Folino’s virtually non-stop 90-minute performance features still another transition of Hedwig: into his object of love-hate, the very same Tommy Gnosis. This rich collection of morphing identities and stunted love is supported by a tight four-person rock band led by music director Dennis Yurich.

Director Alison Garrigan keeps the pace brisk without rushing any beats, and she doubles as Yitzhak, the Jewish drag queen whom Hedwig routinely abuses physically and mentally. Her moment of new-found freedom, when Hedwig/Tommy finally lifts the boot off her neck, is lovely and magical.

Considering the tight quarters, this Hedwig still manages to pull off some impressive lighting effects, and just enough theatrical pizzazz—thanks to some clever semi-animated slides and a fake print ad for Hedwig’s fantasy perfume line called Atrocity—to give the evening the sizzle it requires.

If you don’t feel quite whole without the lyrics to “Midnight Radio” whirling in your head…

And you’re shining/Like the brightest star/
A transmission/On the midnight radio/
And you’re spinning/ Like a 45 ballerina/
Dancing to your rock and roll

…now’s the time to wrap your arms around Hedwig once again.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Through October 3 at the Hi-Fi Concert Club,
11729 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood,

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