Archive Entertainment The Orion

“Hedwig” inches into Chico

January 1, 2005

If you go see “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” expecting a nice, little play, please deposit your ticket in the trash can by Collier Hardware.

This is a rock show people. The instruments are live, only some of the offstage singing is taped and the lead singer has a short, little surprise up her short, little skirt.

Crew members were scampering through the Blue Room Theatre lobby Thursday night asking every available person where the wigs were. Souvenir sales were bustling with various pieces of “Hedwig” paraphernalia. Beer bottles were in every other hand, the place was packed to near fire code levels, and did I mention the show started late?

Matt Hammons turned in an amazing performance in the demanding role of Hedwig (formerly known as Hansel). I hesitate to say he was dressed in drag simply because of the sexual dynamics of the character, but he completed the look amazingly well. His body was devoid of any blatant male characteristics, his clothing suggested something effeminate, yet his face left just enough doubt as to the character’s sex. The heavy, sky-blue eye shadow and the shimmering, ruby lipstick layered on his face was accented most notably by his martini glass, colored to match every outfit he had.

Throughout the performance, there are monologues and slides that give more insight into Hedwig’s life and how she got where she was. It all started at birth, when Hedwig’s mother chose to make the sexually ambiguous baby a girl. Hedwig’s travels have brought her from the east side of the Berlin wall to Chico where she plays on with the angry inch, the remnants of her botched sex-change operation, described in a song as “6 inches forward (went) 5 inches back.”

The band was simply amazing for a theatrical show. Its look was straight out of the ’80s synth-scene with a hint of Gothic. The guitarist character, Skzshp, was played with a high degree of musical ferocity. His characterization of a quiet man deeply in love with grinding his electric axe was clear in every drop he made to his knees and every fleet-footed move from stage left to stage right to the stairs. The only hint the audience has at his thick eastern European accent is when he leads the band in a customary “one, two, three” to start a song. Did I mention he was playing live the whole time?

But since the show is called “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” most of the action revolved around Hammons’ performance. He seemed to follow the script well, but there were some fabulous improvisations that put his face practically in a man’s lap and even spewing vodka on some of the older members of the audience.

The ending seemed a little underdone with the offstage transformation from Hedwig into Tommy Gnosis. In the theater version, the two roles are played by one character; in the movie, they’re two different actors. Hammons as Tommy looked like a ghostly Billy Idol in black spandex shorts that stretched to mid-thigh with a silver cross on his forehead. His acting, however, was lacking as it seemed he drew little from a separate characterization and merely played himself as a singer looking for a contract.

If, after hearing this, you choose to see “Hedwig,” please make sure to hit the restroom early as there is no intermission in this 90-minute performance. They do provide a tiny, little “piss cup,” but most people opted out of using it and instead bolted for the restroom and took away from the action on stage.

“Hedwig” plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday until April 23. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. Shows on Thursdays are only $6.