Atz Lee Kilcher reprises role in musical comedy with a twist
By Randi Somers
Having enthralled audiences in Homer and Halibut Cove at the close of last season, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” opens at Pier One Theatre this weekend. Atz Lee Kilcher stars in this musical comedy with a somber undertone.
While the play entertains with humorous songs and dialogue, the theme of a young man escaping Communist East Berlin by enduring a botched sex change, underlies the story with more serious themes.
Hedwig becomes a woman (almost) in order to marry an American soldier and escape to freedom. And although Hedwig manages to get out of Germany, she can’t elude her fate. Disconcerted by the incomplete sex-change, her soldier divorces and abandons her in a trailer park in Kansas, and she sets out to build a new life. An “internationally ignored” rock singer, Hedwig searches for love and stardom while dealing with the botched operation.
Hedwig has considerable talent. She forms a rock band and falls in love with her protege, Tommy Gnosis, who also abandons her. He steals her songs, and uses them to develop a successful singing career.
A one-man tour de force, Kilcher vamps through the performance in skimpy dresses and gaudy wigs, contrasting with his “husband,” Director Kathleen Gustafson who sings harmony, garbed in a drab blue coverall. The only other performers on stage are the back-up band, Jane Ferman Kilcher on piano, Steve Collins, guitar, Ben Gerhards, bass, Matt Farnsworth, drums and Mike Shelman, guitar.
Kilcher turns in a performance worthy of an Off-Broadway Award.
Hedwig, with her band, “The Angry Inch,” haunts Tommy Gnosis on his tours, performing in strip-mall restaurants for pleasantly surprised diners and a few devoted fans. Through songs and flashbacks, Hedwig tells her life story, borrowing on her past connection with Gnosis for celebrity.
In the title role, Kilcher — better known for his musical talent than acting — impresses audiences with his versatility during the one-man show.
As befits a musical comedy, this one has a happy ending, as Hedwig eventually finds true love and resolves her identity uncertainty.
Written by John Cameron Mitchell, with lyrics by Stephen Trask, the musical was originally produced in Off-Broadway clubs in New York City as a cabaret-style play in 1998.
Combining Hedwig’s monologues with songs that range from power rock ballads to rockabilly, the play sketches the history of rock ‘n roll in America while exposing the problems of a man who hasn’t quite become a woman. Pier One’s schedule calls it a “Curiously poignant glam/rock musical steeped in the androgynous 1970s era of David Bowie and Iggy Pop.”
Gustafson uses rear projection of images produced by video artists Kevin Co and Kathy Brennan to graphically illustrate the story.
Pier One Artistic Director Lance Petersen said that due to adult language, themes and lyrics, audience members must be 18 or older.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
When: June 17, 7:30 p.m., 18, 8:15 p.m. and 19, 10 p.m.
Where: Pier One Theater
Tickets: General $16, Senior citizens $15, Ravens and students $12. Advance tickets available at Etude Studio, The Bookstore or by phoning 235-7333 for reservations.
More info: 235-7333 or www.pieronetheatre.org
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