Friday, April 1, 2011

The United States of HEDWIG By Beverly Creasey

HEDWIG fans are divided. Is she a multiple personality or an unfortunate casualty of the cold war? Is Tommy Gnosis her nemesis or her alter ego? If you haven’t discovered Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell’s hard rock philosophical/ musical phenomenon, now is the time to experience the cult heroine of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH. Here’s why.

You won’t find a better production than Tortoise and Finch’s gig (at the Turtle Lane Playhouse through April 9th). I’ve seen four or five HEDWIGs and not been able to make out Trask’s clever lyrics in any of them. Everyone (except this remarkable crew) seems to think it’s merely a rock concert where lyrics are sacrificed on the altar of sound. There’s a touching story in HEDWIG. There’s great pathos in the songs and Jim Fitzpatrick (one of the best performers in town, by the way) and music director Dan Rodriguez are determined to have the audience hear them.

Fitzpatrick co-directs the show (with Kevin Cirone) and portrays “the internationally ignored song stylist from Berlin” to perfection. Looking and sounding like Marlene Dietrich, Fitzpatrick fills the stage with emotion, relating Hedwig’s sorrowful story: a cold mother/a life trapped behind the iron curtain / a botched operation / escape/ a heartless world /rejection / transformation / acceptance / triumph. Kudos, too, to the gorgeous Shonna McEachern (believe it or not) as the bearded Itzhak, Hedwig’s jealous, misunderstood husband and to Dan Rodriguez and the Angry inch Band for rocking us without robbing us of the whole Bowie-esque experience.