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Hedwig and the Angry Inch
New Helvetia Theatre
By Tony Sheppard
This column normally focuses on film, but occasionally something else comes along that warrants attention. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” the first full production of the New Helvetia Theatre, is one of those. Familiar to many from the film adaptation or prior stage productions, “Hedwig” tells the story of a transgendered East German who undergoes a botched sex change operation in a bid to emigrate to America. That brief description alone makes it clear that it’s not material that would appeal to all audiences, and it’s certainly not a show for most kids. But this is a phenomenal production of a heartfelt and inherently comedic story of love, loss, and identity.
I am predisposed to think of the character of Hedwig with hair that is as large as her ego. Production stills caused me a slight concern, as this incarnation of the “internationally ignored song stylist” is somewhat toned down in her coiffure. However, the artistic interpretation of both the costumes and sets works wonderfully, with many of the more elaborate set pieces depicted via multiple video screens that are seamlessly incorporated into the performance. With the added involvement of a live video feed we don’t only see Hedwig thrust her head into her mother’s oven, for example, but we can inhabit that small space with her. It’s really an extraordinary confluence of media in a versatile set that might be described as industrial-lite.
Both Christopher Davis Carlisle and Nanci Zoppi seem perfectly cast as Hedwig and Yitzhak, her at times questionably significant other. Their voices are a great match both for the material and for each other. Hedwig’s house band, The Angry Inch, is played by The New Humans. I’ve heard it said that The New Humans’ typical musical style is quite different from the guitar-heavy playing of The Angry Inch. If that’s the case, then they are a truly versatile and talented foursome because they join Carlisle and Zoppi in nailing their respective roles.
Directed by Matthew Schneider, and under the creative oversight of New Helvetia’s Founder and Artistic Director Connor Mickiewicz, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is an exciting and auspicious start for the fledgling theater company. Frankly, their biggest challenge at this point is that they’ve given themselves a tough act to follow.
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” continues through June 27th at the Artisan, 1901 Del Paso Boulevard, with Thursday performances at 8pm and Friday/Saturday performances at 7pm and 9pm. More details and ticket information can be found at NewHelvetia.org – all seats are $25.