While there's no shortage of transvestites, junkies, rock & roll, neurotics, cult classics, and compellingly written plays on tap at local theaters this summer, only one has it all: HedwigandtheAngryInch, John Cameron Mitchell's phenomenally successful rock tour de force, receiving its Orange County stage premiere in June.
Produced by the Hunger Artists Theatre Co. and directed by Shannon C.M. Flynn (who helmed the company's only other two musical offerings, the award-winning SweeneyToddand Assassins), Hedwigis a bizarre amalgam of Cabaret,RockyHorror, bare-your-soul-hear-my-pain-theater/performance art pieces and glam rock.
It's a wickedly funny and fast-moving story told in the form of a confessional cabaret show. Hedwig—an emotionally fragile, witty and bitchy pseudo-tranny afflicted with a sealed vagina and a one-inch penis—explains early on that she began life as Hansel, a sexually ambivalent boy in East Berlin. He grew up fascinated by rock & roll, listening to it by sticking his head in the oven, the only place in his home where he had complete privacy. An American G.I. buys Hansel a sex-change operation so they can get married, but the operation mutilates Hansel's genitals into an angry inch of scar tissue. The pair move to America, where Hedwig meets a singer whom she helps turn into a sensation, only to be dumped. This is where the play actually begins.
The piece was honed in dumpy drag-queen clubs in New York before becoming an off-Broadway smash. Its witty blend of gender-blending tweaking and boisterous glam rock makes it gay enough for gay folk and theater enough for theater folk but straight enough for straight folk and rock concert enough for sane folk.
The 2001 film version (and a 2003 documentary of said movie) has sparked a mini-cult of sorts, with the Weekly's Greg Stacy reporting in 2003 that attempts have been made to turn late-night screenings into RockyHorrorPictureShow-style interactive audience events.
This production will be staged in one of the most intimate venues in the county—the Hunger Artists' Fullerton space, which can maybe squeeze 50 bodies into it before the weight sinks it into the magma bubbling at the Earth's core. So it will be very in-your-face and impossible to ignore.
Flynn, who saw the production in New York City while pursuing her master's at a podunk school called Yale, didn't believe a word of the hype but agreed to see the show in the Jane Street theater, which is housed in the building where the crew who survived the Titanicstayed after they were rescued (which means nothing in terms of this show, but isn't someone the disaster name-dropper?).
"I was so blown away by the end of the show," says Flynn. "I couldn't believe it. Seriously. It was a quintessential theatrical moment. I love the story: love, betrayal, acceptance, wigs. It's funny, political and sexy. And it's a bloody rock concert."
Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Hunger Artists Theatre, 699-A S. State College, Fullerton, (714) 680-6803. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. June 17-July 17. $12-$15.