Sunday, September 06, 2009

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Dan Folino a powerhouse in ‘HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH’

The Hi Fi Concert Club is a perfect venue for ‘HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH.’ A grungy rock ‘n roll club, with dark walls, movable chairs, a blasting sound system, an open cash bar amid the wafting odor of stale beer. It so much better fits that mood and the lines of the script than the Cleveland Public Theatre stage where last we saw the multi-talented Dan Folino premiere the piece eight years ago.

‘HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH’ is a rock musical based on a fictional, but somewhat real person, who was author John Cameron Mitchell’s babysitter. The setting was Junction City, Kansas, where Mitchell’s father was stationed as an Army Major General.

The story concerns a band fronted by Hedwig, who is an East German transgender singer. Hedwig has spent her life looking for her soul mate. She finds him in the body of an adolescent who she baby sits. We observe Hedwig rant as he realizes that Tommy, her protégé, has become a major star and she is left to play in dumps like The Hi Fi Concert Club. Occasionally Hedwig opens the stage door and we hear Tommy's concert which is playing in an adjoining venue. Eventually the two concerts meld into one.

The song "The Origin of Love," according to the writer, is based on a speech in Plato’s ‘SYMPOSIUM,‘ which explains that human beings were once two-headed, four-armed, and four-legged beings. Angry gods split these early humans in two, leaving the separated people with a lifelong yearning for their other half. Hedwig believes that Tommy is her soul mate and that she cannot be whole without him. She feels driven to either reunite with Tommy or destroy him.

The title derives from, as Hedwig shares, “My sex change operation got botched; my guardian angel fell asleep on the watch; now all I got is a Barbie doll crotch; I've got an angry inch! “

The stage show premiered Off-Broadway in 1998 and has been performed throughout the world in hundreds of productions. A 2001 American film based on the play won several awards at the Sundance Film Festival.


The local production centers on the talents of Dan Folino and the band, The Angry Inch (Dennis Yurich, Brian Hager, Jason Giaco, Derek Poindexter and Allison Garrigan).
One of the issues with the production is that the lyrics to the songs are drowned out by the loud thumping rock sound and the overly loud electronics. That, of course, comes from a theatre-goer who thinks that words to show songs carry the meaning of the writer, and if I can’t understand the words, the character could just be singing nonsense rhymes. But, that obviously isn’t the attitude of others in the audience who screamed and yelled after every song. Guess this is a generational issue.

Folino, as he normally does with every role he takes on, develops a total character. Sometimes crying through his spatula applied makeup, sometimes scratching at his chest which leaves deep red marks, Folino holds nothing back. I prefer his tender, quieter songs, but admire his ability to wail the rock songs.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH’ is not for everyone. If you are easily offended, have sensitive ears to highly electrified thumping music, you will probably be less than enamored with the show. On the other hand, if you are turned on by big rock and roll music, it’s worth going to see and hear Dan Folino and his band in action.