Canada Arts Connect Magazine (June 2011)

High energy at the Montreal Fringe – Blink, Blink, Blink and Hedwig and the Angry Inch

June 17, 2011 Christina Gunn No Comments


"Hedwig and the Angry Inch is not a one-man play, but don’t tell that to Hedwig. The German-born rock transexual sensation is a show of her own, and Antonio Bavaro’s performance is front and center as it should be. This cult classic is known for it’s entertainment value and the Montreal Fringe Festival performance delivers.

Unfortunately, the show I attended started almost 20 minutes late. After waiting outside and then inside I was not as receptive as I may usually have been, but after a couple of numbers I warmed up to the performance. The play is presented as a rock show. The Angry Inch back up band is drunk, hairy and disgruntled, Hedwig is bitchy and fabulous and we the audience are playing the role of audience. Between high energy punk rock numbers, and through them, Hedwig recounts in extended monologue her life, from a pretty boy in early 1980s East Berlin to her operation that left her with her “angry inch”, to a life in America and her desperate search for her “other half”. Rejected and angry she vents and laments and sings her ass off.

Unfortunately due to the nature of attempting to present the band as an actual punk band I found the play element of the musical somewhat hard to follow. This is in keeping with the history of the play, which was developed in the club scene versus in theatres in an attempt to keep the rock energy. Although the Katacombs is ideal for this play, the sound was loud to the point that I wasn’t able to follow all of the lyrics. In a club show this doesn’t matter. In a musical I am left feeling that I may have missed story elements.

Adding to my confusion was the fact that the leads did not have quite the physical skills necessary to project multiple characters as often required. This was really only slightly problematic, as Bavaro generally could switch characters by accent and Peggy Hogan, who plays almost everyone else, was able to rely on context and props. In the few scenes where props and costumes did not switch to suggest different character I found that the scenarios were muddled, leaving me slightly unsure of my own interpretations of what was happening, particularly as the play wrapped up.

Still, given these technical issues, I really enjoyed the show. Hedwig is a complex and highly damaged character whose search for identity and love, and identity and power via love, was understandable and intriguing. The script was tweaked to match the venue and the city, a local nod that kept up the illusion that we were at a rock show and that these characters were in fact real, and, in fact, larger than life.

Antonio Bavaro as Hedwig draws on all of his drag performance background to deliver high energy, stylish camp over a wounded, bitter interior, and all in sky high heels. He takes over the stage and the entire room with angry energy, stomping his feet, dashing back and forth, doffing and donning outfits and belting out songs that are cult classics. Bavaro’s voice matches the songs perfectly, both the rock hits and the softer ballads. Peggy Hogan’s vocals are underused by her character, but when she sings it is worth the wait. Overall it is a strong presentation of a cult classic, engaging, energetic, touching and rocking out.

Both Blink, Blink, Blink and Hedwig and the Angry Inch wrap up their final shows this weekend, as does the Montreal Fringe Festival. With only three days left to enjoy the smorgasboard of live small theater I encourage Montreal to hit the streets and the small venues where these shows are still being showcased. My appetite for live theater has been whetted. I won’t wait until 2012 to see more live theater, and neither should you."

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