Hedwig And The Angry Inch / Jane Street Theatre / March 13, 1999

Located at the historic Hotel Riverview (which lodged Titanic survivors in 1912), NYC’s Jane Street Theatre currently hosts John Cameron Mitchell’s provocative Hedwig And The Angry Inch. Charismatic actor Michael Cerveris takes on the role of botched sex change victim, Hedwig, an East German immigrant confused by his father’s sexual advances and scorned by his overbearing mother. A cheesy glimmer rock wannabe, Hedwig’s musical career suffers a setback after a blow job-induced car accident.

Cerveris brilliantly conveys the sadness and remorse of the crackled lead character; a wig-crazed androgyne with Alladin Sane-era makeup. By humoring the attentive audience with improvised dialogue, sly innuendoes, hilarious rants, and funny theatrical maneuvers, he gets everybody to empathize with Hedwig’s woeful tales of shattered dreams and dour relationships. A devout listener of US Armed Forces Radio, Hedwig took to heart the glam-pop affectations of Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side.” Though he yearned for acceptance, his painful, bizarre past and grief-stricken transvestite lifestyle were difficult to reconcile.

Hedwig’s sneering husband, Yitzak, played by clear-throated soprano and backup harmonizer, Miriam Shor, boosts the power of several musical numbers. Guitarist Werner F and drummer Jon Weber, both from fabulous punk combo, Vaporhead, lead a viable band through the eclectic “Origin Of Love,” the glitzy “Sugar Daddy,” and the venomous “Angry Inch” (an ode to Hedwig’s mutilated penile remnant).

Hedwig’s kooky odyssey towards self-knowledge brims with insightful psychoanalysis and humility. In retrospect, he mirrors society’s decay, standing alone at the end, if not triumphant, at least alive.

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