Many words have already been written about Theater Latté Da’s current production of John Cameron Mitchell’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” More words than we’ve seen in a long time about a single play or musical. It’s pretty unanimous: Don’t miss this.
Why? It’s an oldish show, premiering off-Broadway in 1998, made into a movie in 2001. (The 2014 Broadway revival won a Tony.) What was shocking 20 years ago seems almost tame today, even anachronistic. “Transgender” is a word many people are now familiar with. (In the “Hedwig” program, Latté Da thoughtfully provides a “Glossary of Sexual Orientation/Gender Terminology.”) Men in heels are no big deal.
So “Hedwig” is a bit of a period piece in our rapidly changing social landscape. Well, so are most other plays written anytime before today. Latté Da set it in the late 1990s, like the original. Moving it forward two decades would have felt time-warpy and weird. In a way, it’s a history play.
Back to the why, we’ll add our two cents to the chorus of raves. Rather, our two main reasons you should catch this if you can – if you’re 13 or older. “Hedwig” includes strong language and adult themes.
Reason 1 is Tyler Michaels King’s performance. From the moment he steps out of a trailer onto the stage – wearing a frayed miniskirt, torn fishnets, heavy make-up and the first in a series of outrageous wigs – he owns the show. He has stiff competition from the marvelous, slow-burning Jay Owen Eisenberg as Hedwig’s husband, Yitzhak, and the loud and enthusiastic rock band at the back of the stage (be sure to grab earplugs on the way in). That’s the whole cast: Michaels King, Eisenberg, Jason Hansen on keys, Jendeen Forberg on percussion, Mayda Miller on bass and Jakob Smith on guitar.
Starting with the first time we saw Michaels King (then known as Tyler Michaels) – in Lattê Da’s production of “Cabaret” at the Pantages, way back in 2014 – we’ve thought he was a fearless, all-in actor. In “Hedwig,” he’s possessed. With megawatt energy and total commitment, he inhabits the damaged, courageous, angry, betrayed, ferocious, complicated Hedwig. We feel for her. We root for her. Michaels King struts, poses, flirts, crawls, collapses, swaps wigs, changes clothes, strips down to boxer briefs, and belts out power ballads. (This show should have a cast recording.) We’d call his Hedwig the performance of a lifetime, but that would be silly, since he’s 29 years old, or maybe 30 by now. But “Hedwig” will rank as a milestone in his career, with many more to come. We predict a long and winding garden path of milestones for him.
Reason 2 is this production. Directed by Annie Enneking and Peter Rothstein, it’s incredibly intimate – what we’ve come to expect from Latté Da, which carves away the excess from big, bombastic shows and reveals their beating heart. Everything seems human-scale and personal. Latté Da’s shows are always personal. Even when they’re not remotely about us, they speak to us on a level we can understand and empathize with. Often, at least in our experience, they awaken compassion. That’s doing important work in the world.
The Ritz Theater, which Latté Da bought in 2016, seems like a perfect home for them. Actors often spill off the stage and into the audience. The stage itself – as wide as the house, not that high off the floor and minus a proscenium arch – feels like part of the house. Often there’s no fourth wall. For “Hedwig,” the audience is the crowd that has gathered for Hedwig’s performance. Scenic designer Michael Hoover has extended the stage with a ramp, giving Michaels King easy access to people he ribs and teases. Alex Ritter’s sound design reminds us with occasional traffic sounds that we’re in a parking lot somewhere in Minnesota. Alice Fredrickson’s costume designs are pure rock-and-roll, from Yitzhak’s leather jacket to Hedwig’s leopard-skin shift and satin robe. And Paul Bigot’s wigs are living creatures.
The show is just 90 minutes from start to finish, with no intermission. On the way out, if you didn’t notice on the way in, you’ll see that Latté Da’s lobby restrooms are now inclusive and gender-neutral.
“Hedwig” ends May 5. Don’t miss it. FMI and tickets ($34-49).
Tonight (Thursday, April 11) through Sunday at the Lab Theater: Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theater: “What the Moon Sees.” Directed by Susana di Palma, this evening-length dance concert includes the premiere of di Palma’s “Casita,” a work about homeless women, and original contemporary works by Belén Maya, Jeanne d’Arc Casas and Fanny Ara. “Casita” will be seen and “not seen,” as the homeless are often “seen but not seen.” It will feature original music performed by guitarist Ben Abrahamson, blues/gospel vocalist Billy Steele with gospel/jazz vocalist Tonya Hughes, and flamenco percussionist Jose Moreno. 8 p.m. tonight through Sunday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. FMI and tickets ($40-20).
Friday at Norway House: Opening reception for “Sámi Dreams: Conversations with Modern-Day Sámi.” Northern Europe’s only indigenous people, the Sámi are threatened by climate change, marine pollution, long oppression and marginalization. They are also a resilient people with growing political power. This exhibition features National Geographic photographer Randall Hyman’s portraits of influential members of modern Norwegian-Sámi society. The portraits are paired with recordings of the subjects talking about their relationship to their indigenous identity. 5-8 p.m. Hyman will give a brief presentation at 6:30. He’ll return Saturday morning for an artist lecture at 10 a.m. FMI and tickets for either/both ($10/5).
Saturday at the Capri Theater, as part of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival: “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.” Director Timothy Greenfield-Sander’s documentary about the Nobel Prize-winning author of “Beloved,” “Paradise,” “The Bluest Eye” and more profoundly influential works of American literature is both profile and tribute. Includes interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis, and Morrison herself. 5:45 p.m. Also Tuesday, April 16, at the St. Anthony Main Theatre. FMI and tickets ($15/11/8).
Saturday at the Minnesota Museum of American Art: Artists in Action: Third Daughter Restless Daughter. If you think cross-stitch is futzy and old-fashioned, you haven’t seen the cross-stitch by Hmong sisters Wone and Youa Vang. “Subversive” is one word for it, also “hilarious,” “thought-provoking” and “in your face.” Oh, and “refreshing.” They’ll spend the afternoon at the M, and you can join them, pick up a needle and thread, and try a little cross-stitch of your own. While you’re there, stop by “The Good Making of Good Things” exhibition. All free. 2-5 p.m.
Saturday at Northrop: David Roussève/REALITY: “Halfway to Dawn.” Written, choreographed and directed by Roussève, performed by his diverse company of nine dancers, “Halfway to Dawn” is a biography told in dance, music and projections. Its subject: Billy Strayhorn, a piano prodigy and openly gay black man who spent much of his life in Duke Ellington’s shadow, writing hits like “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Satin Doll” and “Chelsea Bridge.” The score includes several songs by Strayhorn. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($27-47; other pricing available). Performance preview at 6:15 in the Best Buy Theater; post-performance Q&A.