Review: 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' measures up

Published Sept. 17, 2013

She stood there, tears rolling down her cheeks. The glamor, the glitter meant nothing. She collapsed to the floor after the song. She finally had been broken.

That wasn't how it ended, or how it began, but it was among the most gripping scenes from Jobsite Theater's full throttle season opener, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, at Shimberg Playhouse.

Hedwig, played by Spencer Meyers, isn't your normal protagonist. She's saucy, eccentric and transgendered. A botched sex change operation left her with "an angry inch," now also the name of her misfit band, which she uses to cope and express her bizarre chain of life events. Music is her medicine and the audience finds her in the middle of a breakdown, or breakthrough.

From the moment she opened her glitter flecked ruby lips, Hedwig captivated the audience with her candor, humor and charisma. Behind the German accent and Farrah Fawcett blond waves was a woman, formerly a man, who struggled to be whole. She finds love and it leaves her, more than once. There was the American, Luther, she escaped Germany with; and the teenage boy who forgot her after she taught him the art of music and went on to be a famous rock star; then her unhappy husband, Yitzhak, whom she used as a crutch. Through the series of let downs in love and constantly giving something up, Hedwig embodied perseverance, transcendence and hope.

She's part man, part woman, part rock star, part goddess and fully human. Between the ballads, wigs and sexual entendres, Hedwig has real conviction, a determination to find what makes her complete. There are tears coated in comedy, glitter in the gut of regret.

It's a familiar tale of self-discovery many musicals attempt. The rather no-frills production allowed the poetic writing of John Cameron Mitchell and the unlikely character of Hedwig to explode in a memorable rock 'n' roll saga of the cult favorite. Meyers gave a phenomenal portrayal of Hedwig and fully committed to her spirit musically and characteristically, never faltering from the face of the unconventional role.

Despite being secondary roles, the band members of the Angry Inch, played by Jonathan Cho, Jana Doan, Woody Bond and the angelic-voiced Amy Gray (also Yitzhak), provided the live backbone to seamlessly execute the story on stage.

Setting aside notions about gender and love permits the audience to realize that the performance is not only a story about Hedwig, but a story about us all: our journeys and paths of self-discovery, identity and what makes us whole.