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Theater Review: “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” plays through May 5, 2019 at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Boulevard in University Heights
Photo credit:
Simpatika.com

In these times of growing fear of the “other,” it’s nice to be reminded of the unafraid, those who embrace who they really are.

The Greeks (notably Plato) posited that humans once came in twos, attached (with two heads, four arms, etc), but that the gods were angered one day and split early humans in two, leaving each to wander around in search of its other half.

The wildly popular musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch, "a story of acceptance and the struggle for gender identity, starts in East Berlin, where “a slip of a girlyboy” named Hansel gets a ticket to freedom in the U.S. by marrying American soldier Luther, but has to get a sex-change operation first. The operation is botched and the girl (now called Hedwig, after her mother) is left with an “angry inch” where she didn’t want it.

A year later, Luther deserts her for a man, and Hedwig ends up in a Kansas trailer park, divorced and alone. She befriends a boy she babysat, discovers they both like music, gives him the stage name Tommy Gnosis and they start playing together. But he, too, abandons Hedwig and goes off on his own, becoming a rock star sensation.

Hedwig (Jeremy Wilson) marries her back-up singer Yitzhak (Cashaè Monya), a Jewish drag queen from Zagreb, and is left, an “internationally ignored song stylist,” to play coffee bars and dives with her band, The Angry Inch.

Diversionary Theatre celebrates the 20th anniversary of the off-Broadway debut of the smash musical (by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask) with sparkling performances, a great band and a really appreciative audience. It’s directed by Diversionary’s artistic chief Matt M. Morrow. Unsurprisingly, the run has been extended through May 5.

The fine four-member band (Patrick Marion, Jim Mooney, David Rumley, and actor Linda Libby, who here plays a mean bass) is onstage. A door on stage left leads to a concert venue of some sort (we’re told it’s the San Diego Buddhist Association, across the street from the theater), where in the blinding light, Gnosis is playing to a huge crowd.

Wilson (recently moved here from New York) seems utterly at home in this crazy part and is an equally fine singer.

Monya, who can do just about anything onstage, proves it here with her portrayal of the put-upon Yitzhak, forced into servitude and not one bit happy about it, as she sings to great effect in “The Long Grift.” That girl can put across a song.

Let’s face it, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is talky, vulgar and often ear-splitting, but it’s also funny, sometimes touching and perhaps more relevant today than it was when it opened. Just don’t bring the little kids or Grandma.

The details

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” plays through May 5, 2019 at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Boulevard in University Heights

Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm.; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (619) 220-0097 or www.diversionary.org