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Hedwig and the Angry Inch

116 S. Kalmia Street, Escondido, 92025
Cost: $15 - $45

This musical, the glampunk cabaret Story of My Life as told by a genderqueer hard-luck case in a platinum blond wig that looks like it’s ready to take flight, first played in 1998, which means it’s old enough now to have a generational legacy. That’s made clear by the program, in which Patio Playhouse artistic manager Matt FitzGerald calls Hedwig “a vital part of queer history” and says that it “teaches us that we are enough, that we are whole, and that we are worthy. That message is as important today as it was in 1998 or any other year.” Director Juztine Tuazon-Martin writes that it “speaks to anyone who’s ever been excluded from a binary when saying, ‘You know, you’re doing all right.’”

The first-time viewer will recognize that quote from the big number “Midnight Radio,” the title of which alludes to Hedwig’s impoverished youth in Communist East Germany, listening to American radio with his “girly-boy” head in the oven. That same viewer may wonder at the veracity of the claim: here is a kid who was sexually abused and abandoned by his G.I. Father, neglected by his mother, subjected to a botched sex-reassignment by his first lover, and utterly betrayed by his Aristophenean Other. (There is a lot going on here in the religion department, mostly but not entirely as it relates to power.) Doing all right? Hedwig writhes in obscurity, drinks throughout the show, and is generally abusive to onstage/life partner Yitzhak (Kailey Agpaoa). And the show’s grand moment of triumph seems to hinge on an out-of-character whim from Ye Olde Antagonist. It feels like a story, not of winning, but of losing with style, of suffering magnificently, of telling terrible off-color jokes to keep from crying (“When it comes to a huge opening, a lot of people think of me,” “When Luther proposed, I was on my knees,” etc.)

But while it’s a sad story, it’s anything but a sad show, thanks to that style and magnificence, and thanks also to the way Amanda Blair responds to the lead character’s invitation to go no-balls to the wall. The accent is tough, the songs hit every emotional key, and the spotlight never lets up, but Blair is game, and that carries her through as she stomps, struts, and slumps about. The rest of the production shares that same spirit, and makes virtues of its limitations — overhead projectors, childlike illustrations, fan-blown confetti — rather like its subject. [Note: Patio Playhouse is using two sets of actors for the show.]

When

Ongoing until Sunday, February 6, 2022

Hours

Sundays, 2pm
Fridays, 8pm
Saturdays, 8pm
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