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HEDWIG AND

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THE ANGRY INCH

R E V I E W E D B Y

CHIP DEFFAA

If you're going to hold an audience's attention for an 80-minute, one-man show, you'd better have plenty of magnetism. John Cameron Mitchell does. "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," in which he stars and which he has written (with songs by Stephen Trask), is part play, part rock concert, and nearly all terrific.

Whether performing in drag for most of the show (looking vaguely like Marlene Dietrich) or out of it (looking little changed from when he portrayed Dicken in "The Secret Garden" seven years ago), he is a vivid presence. He catches all available laughs, with the grand, above-it-all aplomb of our foremost drag performer, Charles Busch.

Mitchell, who earned Drama Desk nominations for his work in "The Secret Garden," "Hello Again," and "The Destiny of Me" (winning an Obie for the last-named) is a skillful actor; he finds subtleties in his characterization--unexpected intimations of poignance--that would be beyond most drag performers. And the show itself, dealing with Hedwig's quest for fulfillment, certainly has far more substance than most drag productions. Director Peter Askin has skillfully provided for a growing sense of momentum and intensity, culminating in Mitchell's stunning onstage character transformation.

Miriam Shor is convincing and amusing, playing a male member of the band "Cheater." And Trask's music is powerfully energetic and varied; his lyrics demand careful attention. There'd better be a cast album! I'm eager to hear again the song Trask and Mitchell created out of the classic Greek story on "The Origin of Love."

The script could stand a little tightening and storyline clarification; one or two of the repetitive double-entendre jokes might be pruned. But Mitchell generates enough razzle-dazzle to cover such minor shortcomings. Mitchell's own natural voice is so appealing, it's a pity we only get to hear much of it towards the end. Almost all night, maintaining credibly his drag characterization, he uses a voice a bit higher than his natural one.

Presented by Alice's Enterprises, the Westside Theatre, and J.B.F. Producing Corp., at the Jane Street Theatre, 113 Jane St., NYC. Opened Feb. 14 for an open run.

MOE GREEN GETS IT

IN THE EYE

R E V I E W E D B Y

KARL LEVETT

"There was no affirmative action for Italians," reminisces Big Johnny, who is a kingpin of petty organized crime in Jersey City. Big Johnny (Anthony Patellis) is the nostalgic philosopher who is dethroned in Tony DiMurro's study of a set of contemporary hoodlums. The new king is Sally Hipps (Anthony Barile), who spreads his influence by pulling his adversaries' teeth with his ever-present pair of pliers. Also present are two unlikely brothers: big brother Slants (Patrick Michael Buckley), a loquacious thug, and his oh, so sensitive younger brother, Mario (Matthew Bonifacio), seeking to escape his dangerous environment.

Does any of this seem a wee bit familiar?" "Golden Boy" and "On the Waterfront" immediately spring to mind. The play's title comes from "The Godfather" and there's a lengthy reference to "Of Mice and Men," so that working-class American Lit is well represented here.

While The Orchard Street Theater Co., under the straightforward direction of Joseph Summa, presents a sufficiently convincing picture of a criminal milieu, this is consistently undermined by Playwright DiMurro. Not only are we traveling over familiar territory (Mario even has a lovely Jewish girl friend), but DiMurro betrays his authentic atmosphere with poetic ambitions at the most unlikely moments. Most importantly, the focus of this cautionary tale keeps changing, so that the theme of the two brothers which provides the play's climax is delivered half baked. What DiMurro does have is a good ear--portions of the dialogue ring with colorful truths.

The best of these are delivered by Patellis as Big Johnny, in a performance that dominates the play and helps greatly in making the doings credible. Barile, while providing a scary presence, is not quite as adept with his dialogue as he is with those pliers. Buckley's profane arias smack of authenticity, but, after a time, repetition takes over. As our would-be (and under-written) hero, Bonifacio struggles against impossible odds.

Presented by The Orchard Street Theater and Carmine Famiglietti, at La Tea Theater, Clemente Soto Velez Arts Center, 107 Suffolk St., NYC, Feb. 22-March 7.

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