Hedwig and the Angry Inch

On August 13th, 1961,
a wall was erected
down the middle of the city of Berlin.
The world was divided by a cold war,
and the Berlin Wall
was the most hated symbol of that divide
Reviled. Graffitied. Spit upon.
We thought the wall would stand forever,
and now that it’s gone,
we don’t know who we are anymore.


Ladies and Gentlemen,
Hedwig is like that wall,
standing before you in the divide
between East and West,
Slavery and Freedom,
Man and Woman,
Top and Bottom.
And you can try to tear her down,
but before you do,
you must remember one thing…

More than just theatre, more than just a rock show—Hedwig and the Angry Inch walks the line between both mediums like a six foot tall transgender-diva in high heeled boots, utterly transcending their limits.

From the very first explosion of sound and light, you know something has changed. There’s no more outside world, no more yesterday or tomorrow, just this. The band is a force from the very first note, and little Yitzhak belts out words that cut through the bedlam like a knife, but they are clearly building to something.

In the midst of this frenzied, thrashing music, Hedwig herself blows in like a hail storm: glittering and hard and thunderous. She straddles the mic stand, her blonde wig pinned back in victory rolls that frame the vicious lines of her eyebrows, and she screams like a valkyrie into the emptiness.

THIS IS NOT THE BLUE ROOM AS YOU ONCE KNEW IT 

This is a seedy little nightclub in smalltown nowhere, and it is HERS. She wears the armor of the jaded, the wisdom of disappointment and heartbreak like a cold steel breastplate, and she hurls her story at you like an accusation. She knows you’re there to laugh at her, to look at the freakshow, or maybe to indulge your secret, lustful fantasies. You want her? She dares you—just try to tear her down.

The room is thick with the tension of this challenge, and prickling with anticipation. For a moment you question your intentions, a tiny war within yourself pitting your empathy against your appetite for spectacle. A rift splits us each down the middle, as we realize we came for both. We want to understand her, and we want a goddamn shit-show. She has us right in the palm of her hand.

And there is more to this East German Amazon than sex and fury. Cracks in the shell form when she says a certain name: Tommy Gnosis.

We all know the name—his story is her story—a car, a bus full of deaf children, and a fiery crash that splattered sensational headlines on the front page of the whole world. The mug shot of a troubled rock star clinging to his career, and a mysterious woman who grimaces oddly in the margins. A comeback tour, and her in the shadows.

He means something to her, something massive and complicated. She kicks open the side door to let his voice drift in. It fills her, then turns to poison.

BUT TO UNDERSTAND THAT AGONY, WE NEED TO KNOW HEDWIG 

We need to know a little boy named Hansel who grew up on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall, on the wrong side of gender and power and understanding. We need to know loneliness and abandonment, and a strange, cold mother who would give you her own name just to be free of you.

When night comes, we need to live with the memories of how it felt to lay with our head in the oven, singing along to American GI radio until that woman called out, “Well, that’s me!” and it was time to curl up next to her on the hard wooden pallet that served as a bed.

We need to know the blessed sweet rush of the first power that ever slid across our tongue, and say the name “Luther” a thousand ways until we know the truth. Luther: the first man to ever offer kindness, then take everything in return. The man who would dress her in velvet and ermine, and ask for her body to bleed under a back-alley surgeon’s blade. For him she would be mutilated, and wind up with nothing but her wits, her wigs, and one angry inch of flesh. For Hedwig, there were so many sacrifices.

WE CALLED IT LOVE

Hedwig spent her whole life searching for her other half, the mythical soulmate split from her by the jealous gods in the days when we were whole beings.

Last time I saw you
We had just split in two.
You were looking at me.
I was looking at you.
You had a way so familiar,
But I could not recognize,
Cause you had blood on your face;
I had blood in my eyes.

But I could swear by your expression
That the pain down in your soul
Was the same as the one down in mine.
That’s the pain,
Cuts a straight line
Down through the heart;
We called it love.

But it was never Luther. He may have ripped her life in two—ripped everything that made her Hansel away and then left her all alone in a trailor park in Junction City, Kansas—but her heart and his were never locked like puzzle pieces.

It was Tommy Gnosis. Tommy who took the best of her; Tommy who sings her songs and tells her stories like they were his all along; Tommy who she knew and loved and opened herself to completely, and then he just walked away. As if he could just do that.

And the loss is everything she has left at this point. She is ruthlessly Hedwig, painfully Hedwig, gloriously Hedwig. She struts and teases, demands our reactions, sings the fucked up bitter truth about everything and brings the room to its knees along with her.

What more can I possibly say about Hedwig and the Angry Inch? The music will reach into you, pull your still-beating heart up to its lips, and take a great big bite. This is the show everyone is talking about. This is the show Chico has been waiting ten years for, and it’s only here for a limited time… whether we like it or not.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Directed by Jeremy Votava

Starring:

Matt Hammons as Hedwig

Gina Tropea as Yitzhak

Maurice Spencer Teilmann as Skszp

Clint Bear as Schlatko

and Kirt Lind as Jacek


Blue Room Theatre, 139 W 1st St. Downtown Chico

Runs March 27 – April 12

Thursdays 7:30pm, $13 in advance, $15 at the door

Fridays and Saturdays 7:30pm, $18 in advance, $20 at the door

Fridays and Saturdays 11pm, $13 in advance, $15 at the door

Tickets available at blueroomtheatre.com and Lyon Books

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Managing Editor for Synthesis Weekly. Amy likes to make clothes, plant flowers, and chase butterflies.