2:34 PM PDT, July 3, 2012

Theater Review'Hedwig' rocks Costa Mesa Playhouse

By Brittany Woolsey, Special to the Daily Pilot

The Costa Mesa Playhouse explores sexuality, creativity and what it means to find one's "other half" in its latest production, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

In the cult musical style of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" follows the story of Hedwig (Dennis Tong), a transgender East Berlin songwriter who hopes to make it big in the music scene. Unfortunately for Hedwig, her songs are stolen by her ex-lover and creation, Tommy Gnosis, a teenage rock prodigy on the verge of success.

The musical is presented as a rock concert by Hedwig. She is backed by a live band, The Angry Inch, named after her own botched sex change operation. Through many humorous and emotional monologues, as well as catchy songs, Hedwig tells her story.

The show actually feels like a concert, especially with its heavy amount of audience interaction. Throughout the show, Hedwig walks through the crowd and speaks directly to them. The script has also been altered to make it more local, mentioning Orange County places and stereotypes. This adds to the already humorous play.

Tong's portrayal of Hedwig is enthralling. He easily captures the audience's attention through his witty improvisational skills and dynamic vocal range. Heartstrings are pulled as Hedwig explains her struggles, and laughs disperse throughout the room with her many sexual puns in her monologues.

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" also succeeds because of its simplicity. Without the aide of a lavish set and a huge cast, the play is gripping all on its own.

For example, while Tommy Gnosis is often mentioned throughout the show, he is never seen. Instead, the only characters seen are Hedwig and her band. The stage is simple, with the band members' instruments as the only props. A white curtain hangs on the side of the stage, with drawings projected onto it to accompany Hedwig's stories.

The music in this show is also atypical, in a good way. While most productions rely on flashy, big band musical numbers, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch's" soundtrack is full of upbeat rock songs and ballads with clever lyrics.

One of the most captivating songs is "The Origin of Love," which tells the story of how men and women used to be attached, but were cut apart by the gods because they were too big a threat.

Because of this, Hedwig explains, people are constantly looking for their other half. If we aren't careful, she warns, we could be cut in half again, and will have to resort to looking through one eye and hopping on one leg.

Clever and entertaining, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is a risqué and brutally honest production not intended for minors.

If You Go

What: "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"

Where: Costa Mesa Playhouse, 661 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa

When: Closing performances are this weekend at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Tickets are $18 for general admission, and $16 for students and seniors

Call: (949) 650-5269 or visit http://www.costamesaplayhouse.org