No need to be ‘Angry’

Matthew Alvin Brown first played the title role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch in 2002, and he’s appearing again as the bewigged belter under the auspices of Oklahoma City Theatre Company at Civic Center Music Hall’s Freede Little Theatre. This is the fourth time I’ve seen him in the role.

Directed by Christopher Castleberry, this production played at a nightclub called The Boom last year. If you’ve been planning to catch the show and have been procrastinating, now is the time to go.

Unless Brown plans to become the Cathy Rigby (who has been playing Peter Pan since sometime way back in the 20th century) of Hedwigs, one wonders how many more chances you’ll have to see him.

Brown has grown up and into the role. Now, his Hedwig is more worldly wise; his humor more agreeable and his makeup more pancaked. The youthful enthusiasm of 10 years ago has been replaced with the focused energy of a seasoned professional. Brown is at the top of his game.

As good as Matt Brown is as Hedwig, Renee Anderson is even better as Hedwig’s “husband,” manservant and punching bag, Yitzhak. But in a completely different way. While Brown emotes and commands the stage by sheer force, Anderson must suppress Yitzhak’s emotions. She walks and slouches and presents a sullen, slacker-dude visage. For Hedwig to succeed, Yitzhak must be Hedwig’s equal.

While Brown is mincing, preening and gesticulating center stage, Anderson draws attention from him by sitting in an arm chair and reading a magazine in half light. Plus, Yitzhak must be played by a professionally trained singer. Anderson gives an outstanding performance. Yitzhak has a secret that’s somewhat revealed by OKCTC, but under the circumstances, it’s not fatal to the production.

With text by John Cameron Mitchell and music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, Hedwig may not stand the test of time, but it will be fun while it lasted. It’s about an East German boy who escapes to America by having a sex-change operation that’s botched, leaving an “angry inch.” Hedwig marries a U.S. soldier and ending up in Junction City, Kan. Yes, it’s a horror story. Hedwig could be called Queen of the Double Entendre, and Castleberry has interpolated topical humor into the show. Chick-fil-A gets a well-deserved plucking.

This fine production includes Hedwig’s band, The Angry Inch: Skszp (Richard York), Kryzhtoff (Zach Zeller), Jacek (Jeff Cooper) and Schlatko (Jacob Becannen). Soundboard operators don’t get much notice in reviews.

Hedwig has a pop/rock score, and Jeanise Morton does an excellent job balancing the sound in the acoustically impeccable Freede Little. Castleberry’s junk-shop scenic design is completely appropriate, and Scott Hynes’ lighting is highly effective considering the theater’s limited resources.

The audience was engaged and loud at last Friday’s performance. It’s easy to see why.

Larry Laneer

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