In this age of burgeoning LGBTQ rights and marriage equality, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” can’t have the emotional impact it did 15 years ago when it was new.But the East Berlin immigrant with the botched sex change operation still sings one of the more inventive rock musical scores this side of The Who.
In this Short North Stage production at the Garden Theatre, director Edward Carignan has chosen to emphasize Hedwig’s demeaning relationship to Yitzhak, the East European Jewish refugee Hedwig has rescued and taken on as her “husband.” In de-emphasizing Hedwig’s love-hate toward Tommy Gnosis, rock idol she built only to be betrayed JJ Parkey’s Hedwig seethes with anger in Act One, saving the vulnerability for Act Two
As the put-upon Yitzhak, Ruthie Stephens remains stoic and unbroken throughout, with a voice that would crack open the ceiling. If The Garden Theatre had a ceiling. Guitarist Derrick Walter, bassist Alexander W.C. Fiete, keyboardist Dane Terry, and percussionist Britta DeVore, under the musical direction of P. Tim Valentine, contribute the instrumental excellence.
The original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell, and composer and lyricist Stephen Trask wrote a musical that sings about the price we pay to think, act and live free. They also dug back to Plato’s “Symposium” for central image of the search for love as the quest for one’s lost other self in the song “The Origin of Love
Although Yitzhak proclaims at the start, “Whether you like it or not,” this “Hedwig” is one to like.