"I'm the new Berlin Wall. Try to tear me down." -- Hedwig An East German war bride looks after a young boy in a Kansas trailer park. She is an ex-prostitute who turns her young charge on to Barry Manilow. The... [more]
"I'm the new Berlin Wall. Try to tear me down." -- Hedwig
An East German war bride looks after a young boy in a Kansas trailer park. She is an ex-prostitute who turns her young charge on to Barry Manilow. The story seems lifted from a tabloid, but these are actual childhood memories for one unusual playwright. From these remembrances of things past, John Cameron Mitchell spawned his attention-grabbing theatrical sensation, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
A glam revival of epic stature, "Hedwig" opens with the story of "girly boy" Hansel, whose only refuge from the bleakness of his homeland is to listen to American rock while resting his head in the oven or face-down in a ditch by the Berlin wall. An American soldier takes a fancy to Hansel and convinces him to become a woman so they can make their union legal. Hansel becomes Hedwig through a sex-change operation, but winds up a predicament more hellish than before. The operation is botched, leaving Hedwig husbandless in a Kansas trailer park with just an "angry inch" of her former manhood left.
Like Mary Poppins from hell, Hedwig becomes mentor to Tommy Gnosis, a teen to whom she teaches her songs of woe. Of course, Tommy breaks poor Hedwig's heart by stealing her songs and leaving her in the dust.
In early runs, John Cameron Mitchell played Hedwig himself (the role has since been played by other actors, including ex-brat-packer Ally Sheedy). As Hedwig, Mitchell sports a righteous pair of pipes, an acid-washed cape, glitter galore, and an over-the-top fright wig. His performance is one of those great gifts of the frustrated artist. Mitchell originally found success on the mainstream New York stage in plays like "The Secret Garden" and "Six Degrees of Separation." But after an unfulfilling period in Hollywood ("I kept losing parts to 'TV pretty' people"), Mitchell decided to realize his own quirky vision with "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." In conscious reference to Plato's "Symposium," the play suggests that sex is the effort to reconnect two halves of one ideal being.
Mitchell's show took a while to find a home, eventually ending up at the Hotel Riverview's Jane Street Theatre (a renovated ballroom in a hotel that was once home to what was left of the Titanic's crew). "Hedwig" has become the unlikely recipient of an Obie and an Outer Critics Circle award for best off-Broadway musical. The show resonates with glam-rock trannies and theater critics alike, as it incorporates both delicious spectacle and serious identity politics. [show less]