AISLE SAY Twin Cities


Text by John Cameron Mitchell
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Jef Hall-Flavin
At the Loring Playhouse
1624 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, MN / (612) 343-3390

Reviewed by Ellen Dworsky and Roxanne Sadovsky

Rox was the one who wanted to see "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." Mainly on account of the fact that she didn't understand it the first time around, and wanted me to explain it to her. What? I'm gonna understand transgender issues any better than she? On the other hand, the year before moving to Minnesota, my housemate from Japan (female) was in love with her professor (transgendered), and guess who heard all the details? Yes, I. So I wasn't all that anxious about sitting through the incredible-one-inch-penis-story. I mean, Jesus, men with average size penises have enough issues and haven't I heard enough agonizing and unnecessary apologies about the size of their "Little Bishops?" -- to quote Hedwig (Jason S. Little). And don't men understand the girth is more important than the length?

I said, "Fine. But I get to write the intro this time." (As I type this, Rox is duct-taped to her chair so she can't get at the keyboard and she ain't too happy about it.)

Off we went to the Loring Playhouse to watch Outward Spiral Theatre Company's and director Jeff Hall-Flavin's production of the acclaimed "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." I soon realized this was not a story about a tiny penis (the "angry inch" is the result of a botched sex change operation) but rather the universal struggle to find ones' missing half, made even more difficult for Hedwig who defies gender classification.

Rox: Elle? Elle? Can I talk about how this play made me feel?

Elle: Quit gnawing on the duct tape. I'll let you type now.

On feelings:

Rox: First of all, I gotta get the CD. But I just have to say how moved I was. Oh my God it was good. True, this was not the best weekend to witness a tragic "love story" when you have just broken up with your other half -- albeit your dysfunctional other half. But Jesus, Hedwig was so much like "John" my ex.

Elle: What the hell are you talking about?

Rox: Hedwig was so out there, always breaking into song during her monologue. Funny, but sensitive. And sexual -- every other word was about coming. I miss him, Elle.

Elle: Cry me a river. My missing half -- well, my missing sexual half anyway -- and I called it quits a year ago. I still can't exorcise him from my thoughts. Sort of like Hedwig and Tommy Gnosis.

Rox: Tommy Agnostic? I thought Hedwig was married to Yitzak -- the nice Jewish boy.

Elle: Gnosis. The one before Yitzak. She makes Tommy famous and then he dumps her.

Rox: So you made your ex famous?

Elle: Oh good God. I'm talking about feelings. Pain, Longing, the struggle to find your place in the world.

Rox: Ex's aside, I can't believe I didn't get it the first time I saw it a year and a half ago.

Elle: What's not to get?

Rox: I think I didn't get it the first time because it's such a non-traditional production; I got a little confused. I had never been to a drag show and kept expecting a conventional play to happen; you know, "Hi Honey! I'm home!" But the monologue just kept on keeping on with all the singing... Now I realize it was all about all those existential dilemmas that keep me up at night but I guess a year ago I was pretty shallow. Plus, I've got the attention span of a tick.

Elle: That's the ADD Rox.

On the story:

Rox: At least I followed this time. The Doctors screwed up at the Bris, right?

Elle: Oy. First of all, Jewish boys are circumcised as babies, not adults. Like I said in the intro: Bungled sex change operation.

Rox: Right. But why did he have to have one anyway?

Elle: He wanted to get out of East Berlin and the only way out was by becoming a woman and marrying the American soldier he was in love with -- who ends up divorcing her. Yes, Rox, the soldier is the one before Tommy.

Rox: You mean the Gummy Bear guy? Couldn't Hedwig have just gotten on a plane?

Elle: Rox, this was before the Berlin Wall came down. Do the words "Cold War" and "Communism" mean anything to you?

Rox: Oh. I get it now.


On funny or tragic?:

Rox: I feel like doing our funny shtick, but it wasn't really funny; it was kind of Crying Gamey.

Elle: I was laughing my head off until the second song, "The Origin of Love" when I realized some pretty deep questions were being addressed. Then again, the best comedy does come from tragedy.

Rox: Is that what they call irony? Like how the wall came down a year after Hedwig left East Germany. Oy, that's tough luck. If he had only waited...

Elle: Exactly. It's hard enough to find someone you connect with when you're straight and have all your original parts.

Rox: And Hedwig? What is s/he? Gay? Straight? Man? Woman?

Elle: All of them?

Rox: Takes a good actor to pull that off.


On what do we call it?:

Rox: Drag show? Part Musical, part Monologue? Monomusical?

Elle: Rock Opera? Cabaret?

Rox: Whatever. Just go see it. I gotta get the CD.

On Hedwig:

Elle: I was entranced from the moment she strutted onstage with that glittery red lipstick and the U.S. flag cape, and belted out "Tear Me Down."

Rox: I wondered if I could get away with wearing that lipstick.

Elle: No, Rox.

Rox: The blue sparkly eye shadow?

Elle: No, Rox.

Rox: OK, what about the big, blond hair? Should I just get a straight, blond wig?

Elle: Again with the hair. We're Jews Rox. Don't try and make yourself into something you're not.

Rox: But Hedwig reinvents herself.


On The Cast/Band:

Elle: Yitzak (Ann Michels) had an amazing singing voice though her German accent wasn't so hot. Thankfully, other than singing, her acting was mostly nonverbal -- through gestures and facial expression.

Rox: What? You were expecting Theodore Bikel? Wait, Yitzak is a woman in real life? She did that whole guy thug thing so well.

Elle: Then she was convincing, wasn't she? But she sang like a woman. Weren't you listening?

Rox: Yes, I said I gotta get the CD, didn't I? But I was also busy trying to figure out who was a man and who was a woman.

Elle: That was part of the fun of the gender-bending cast -- not knowing. And the end, does it really matter?

On The music:

Rox: I want to be like those Headbangers in the front and sing along with the show.

Elle: I liked how the songs told the story as much as the monologue.

Rox: Oy. And such variety: ballads; metal, punk rock... Real Andrew Loyd Webber, you know?

Elle: My favorite song was actually the kind of country-bluesy "Sugar Daddy." I could have listened to Hedwig sing all night.

Rox: When I buy the CD, if you're nice, I'll loan it to you.


On the Scrim:

Rox: Loved the scrim.

Elle: What the hell is a scrim?

Rox: Didn't you go to acting school?

Elle: No. Did you?

Rox: I was in a high school play once.

Elle: Great. Now tell me what a scrim is.

Rox: You know how they projected all the little drawings on the screen? It has something to do with that.

Elle: Whatever. I loved it -- especially with the use of the strobe lights during the song "Exquisite Corpse." If you are prone to migraines or epilepsy you should probably hide your eyes during that part. Intense.

Rox: So are you going to name every single song in this review? It doesn't seem natural, you know?

Elle: Quit kvetching -- you're the one who keeps saying you want to buy the CD.


On should you go see it:

Rox and Elle: Yes!

On who you should go with:

Rox: It's a good date play, don't you think? Or am I only saying that because I'm a fag hag?

Elle: If you're dating someone who can't see past a little make-up and gender confusion to relate to searching for your missing half, he's dead inside. Dump him.

Rox: "John" would have loved it. How 'bout your ex?

Elle: Oy. Don't ask. The answer would be as complicated as this play.

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