Under the guise of being a jaundiced, seductive, German rock chanteuse (by way of Marlene Dietrich) Hedwig and her band: The Angry Inch, is a singer/songwriter and her life story is a contemporary fairy tale on the finer (and stranger) aspects of gender polarization and how love gone wrong can turn into a train-wreck. Hedwig and The Angry Inch is a trashy, surreal, gender mash-up on the uglier and perhaps also sublime odyssey that compels one to find a soulmate. Hedwig does her shtick, laced with withering, ironic insight, while swinging wide between fierce songs and melancholy ballads. She regales us with autobiographical anecdotes, leading us up to the moment that brought her here, to this stage.
In his younger (pre-chop) days, Hedwig shared a trailer with his mother in Berlin, and slept with his head in the oven. (I know, I know). His pathological mother treats him with indifference and contempt. One day, while sunbathing naked, he catches the attention of a charming, butch Military officer named Luther, who plies him with various candies, including Gummy Bears and Sugar Daddies. It’s not long before Luther proposes, and expresses his desire to take Hedwig to America. To fool the authorities, Luther insists mere drag won’t work, and that Hedwig get a transgender operation. His mother explains that to move ahead, you must leave something behind (Hedwig is nothing if not wildly implausible). Then a clandestine, third-rate surgeon botches the job, forever mutilating him. Luther abandons Hedwig in America; from there she forms a deep connection with a guy name Tommy Speck, writing songs for and tutoring him in the school of the immeasurably cool.
Hedwig gets astonishing trajectory from outlandish spectacle, thanks to Julian Crouch (Scenic Designer) Kevin Adams (Lighting Designer) and Benjamin Percy (Projection Designer). The set is post-apocalyptic, neo-garbage heap, tricked out with dazzling lights and hallucinogenic animation. All the better to boost our crass, egocentric, counter-cultural superstar my dear. Hedwig is a flamboyant pastiche that somehow manages to celebrate and ridicule the eternal, fractured battle between masculine and feminine identities in the cause of romance. Everything in this bizarre cyclone of degeneracy screams it shouldn’t work, and yet it does. It’s a pyrotechnical, confounding, inexplicably moving rush. As if Fassbinder and Baz Luhrman had collaborated on a circus. Go, you fools.