There are basic rock musicals, and then there’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch. More than just a show, it yanks you into a world where identities aren’t found, but created; where dreams are ripped apart and sewn back together with bloody hands. This is the world of Hedwig, forgotten transgender East German singer. Telling Hedwig’s story – with its many continents, sexual encounters, worldviews, and more – is not an easy task. But Players’ Theatre’s run of the show, which opened last ight does it effortlessly. Acting as the quintessential theatre critic, I strolled into the press preview with a slightly oversized blazer and a black notebook. The latter lay forgotten on my lap within the first 30 seconds of the performance.
Once lead actor Max Zidel, as Hedwig, descended onto the stage, no one in the audience had time to take notes. We were no longer near McGill campus watching a student production, but transported to a grubby venue somewhere, where Hedwig was about to unleash her autobiography.
Written by John Cameron Mitchell, the story blends searing wit, Greek mythology, social philosophies, and age-old passions into a work that balances the all too human and the fantastical. Hedwig herself is but one piece of the puzzle that makes Players’ production great; without three other pieces, it would only be a shadow of its current form.
The first piece is the heart-breakingly real character of Yitzhak, Hedwig’s on-stage partner. The production’s director, Jessica Kostuck, has given Yitzhak more character depth and importance than other versions of the show I’ve seen, a move I applaud. Elizabeth Conway is a first-year student who plays Yizthak like she’s a fourth-year theatre major. Her subtle background work and tingling vocals are reason enough to go see the show. Moreover, she makes her character the perfect sidekick – it’s clear that Conway’s Yitzhak aches for Hedwig’s turmoil. She provides the sincerity that Hedwig can’t, and the audience loves her for it.
The second piece of the puzzle is the vibrant band, which not only brings the house down with a pitch- perfect glam rock performance, but does so while staying in character, communicating as a live band would. They are apt bookends for the show, blurring the line between our world and Hedwig’s.
The third piece is one you may not see at first glance, but it is perhaps the most important. I’m talking about Hedwig’s other half, the being that the play’s whole journey is about. Whether this being is a successful rock star or whether he is in fact Hedwig herself is a question that drives the play, and the audience is left guessing its answer. The last time you see Hedwig is a poignant moment designed especially for you to come to a conclusion.
And I urge you, put yourself in the position to do so. Hedwig boasts an experienced production crew that has taken matches and made fireworks with them. The lavish costume design and set are fun, but the creative team took it up a notch: dispersed throughout the stage are TV screens, which are constantly streaming footage that enhances the action. One almost needs a second viewing simply to take it all in. Go watch, and drag (mind the pun) your friends along. They’ll thank you for it.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is at Players’ Theatre (3480 McTavish, 3rd Floor) through October 31.