June 12, 2003
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.
Aired on WFAE @ 8:30 a.m. on 6/12/03|
Local actor Billy Ensley isn’t just any lead actor. He’s a Rock and Roll glam queen, with the shaved legs and versatile vocals to prove it. Ensley leads the cast of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, in Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte’s last performance in Spirit Square, before Actor’s Theatre moves to their new digs at the old Reliable Music store on Stonewall next season.
Who ARE the Angry Inch? Well, they are Hedwig’s band, whose name commemorates a really bad sex-change operation that Hedwig went through so he could marry a G.I , leave East Germany and move to America. If you want more details about that, you’ll have to see the play.
This is a live rock show, replete with wailing guitars, and sexy sullen band members. They include Craig Spradley, Chip Decker, Ben Jackson, Jeff Lynds and Charlotte Repertory’s Matt Olin. B. Pierce, of mysterious gender, plays Hedwig’s current husband Yitzhak. Her voice is haunting and reckless.
This is a story about a boy who became a girl who became a rock and roll star who drinks Heineken out of the bottle with a straw. It is the story of Hedwig, who used to be Hansel. It’s the story of a person who looked for love in all the wrong places, and finally found it in an audience of people who adore her.
The show begins with an introduction by the band as Hedwig makes a grand entrance. The audience cheers enthusiastically as she works her way through the theatre, draped in a hooded American Flag, and a dress dripping with red fringe. Her glittering blue eye shadow and her Farrah Fawcett wig can’t hide the fact that she is not a pretty girl, but boy that body is something else. It moves and grooves. It shakes and wriggles. And she can belt out a tune.
Between songs Hedwig shares her history, much of it elicited by the fact that her former boyfriend and musical partner Tommy Gnosis is playing down the street to a much larger crowd at Erickson Stadium. Ensley’s accent is perfect. He has the rare ability to glide seamlessly between the clipped nuances of East German to a southern drawl.
The backdrop to the show is a small screen that flashes stick figure drawings of Hedwig’s various stages of life. It is a perfect compliment to the wry, dirty, humor that Ensley delivers line after line. Her story includes reflections of East Germany while “lying face down on a piece of broken church.” She describes her lover’s eyes as “clear cylinders of surprising depth and emptiness.” She remembers a childhood where she was “really quite content singing backup harmonies in my oven.”
The most intriguing accomplishment of this production is how fully and deeply Ensley owns the character Hedwig. Not only is Hedwig believable, but a flurry of fans follow her from show to show. She personifies the mystery of show business in general, and rock and roll in particular. It is a genre full of freaks whose personal lives are tragic, but who deliver huge, enigmatic stage personas that audiences adore. In a normal person Hedwig’s tribulations would make her pitiful. But on stage, under lights, she is a superstar, and we love her.
Lynn Trenning, June 12, 2003