Christopher Johnson, right, portrays Hedwig, and Dani Dryer is one-time drag queen Yitzhak, Hedwig's sideman in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."


Raw, raucous, raunchy.

That's "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

The play with loud rock music; a singer in drag and drenched in glitter; a killer band; lots of F-bombs; even more double entendres; and a bizarre, delicious, poignant story partially inspired by Plato's "Symposium" is on stage at the Screening Room.

The sometimes-movie theater is the perfect setting for "Hedwig," the first production of the newly created The Bastard (Theatre). The wallpaper is peeling, the seats are tattered, the linoleum floor may not have been sticky but it was easy to imagine it was.

A near-sold-out audience cozied down for the opening show Thursday, but within minutes ears perked up, heads starting bobbing and the laughter rolled.

Christopher Johnson is Hedwig, a tortured soul with a botched sex-change operation (the "angry inch" in the title) and an astounding talent for writing songs that say something and sound good.

Johnson is reprising this role - he first played Hedwig at Etcetera four years ago.

His Hedwig is a little more weary in this incarnation, a touch more cynical. And the character's heartbreak and longing are deeper and sadder in this production, which Johnson also produced and directed.

Johnson's voice is still rough - he'll never make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he imbues his character with such richness and nuance that one doesn't care. And his voice control is better, slipping from soft to hard, quiet to loud with an ease that serves the songs, and the character, well.

Dani Dryer is also reprising her role of one-time drag queen Yitzhak, Hedwig's sideman. She, too, has matured into this role of a man who stands by and takes way too much verbal abuse from Hedwig, whom he loves deeply.

The story has Hedwig following pop star Tommy Gnosis around. As he plays arenas, Hedwig plays near-by joints like the Screening Room. But at one time, they wrote songs together and Hedwig believed with her whole being that Tommy was her other half, the soul that made her's complete. Which is the way Yitzhak sees Hedwig.

The pain and longing are etched in Dryer's face and worn like a tight suit.

And then there is the band - Andrew Lane on drums, David Lane on keyboard, Miles Bartlett on guitar and Ben Schneider on bass. They had no problem slipping into the roles of Hedwig's back-up band, dubbed The Angry Inch. They played with energy, often expertise, and laced their characters with a wry humor, giving them solid definition.

They were an integral part of the production and they reveled in it; so did the audience.

There are flaws in "Hedwig" - the sound was muddy at times, the story has its holes, there is lots of attachment to being outrageous for outrageousness' sake.

But they are flaws that seem to add to the rawness, the vibrancy and the grand fun that makes up this heartfelt and heady "Hedwig."


• What: The Bastard (Theatre) production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

• By: John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask.

• Director: Christopher Johnson.

• When: 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through Feb. 23.

• Where: The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St.

• Tickets: $15.

• Reservations/information: 425-4163.

• Running time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

• Warning: Mature subject matter; no one under 16 admitted.

• Check it out: Find rehearsal videos and Christopher Johnson's Hedwig blog at

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.