Hell hath no fury like a tranny scorned, as playwright John Cameron Mitchell's fierce musical about the wrathful he/she named Hedwig makes abundantly clear. If you've only seen Mitchell and composer Stephen Trask's story in its cult-film version, director Ben Kusler's intimate, but emotionally ferocious, stage production is a must-see. Born a boy in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Hedwig (Chuck DiMaria) agrees to have a sex-change operation so he can marry the American GI he loves. However, things go horribly wrong, and Hedwig's accidentally left with just a little extra. Later, after a tragic romance with a callow young man whom she grooms to be a rock star, Hedwig is left adrift in L.A., where she rents out a theater so she can have her own little spite concert. As the spurned rock muse with the heart of platinum, Chuck DiMaria offers a turn that's actually more engrossing and intense than even Mitchell's was in the movie. He also possesses a rock star's voice that's so evocative it sends shivers up the spine, alternating between Bowie-like irony and Rocky Horror campiness. As Hedwig's Drag King Guy Friday Yitzak, Renee Cohen possesses beautifully delicate vocals that provide perfect backup. Director Kusler's feverishly brisk and emotionally subtle staging crackles with an atmosphere of rock & roll excess, which transforms the surreal aspects of the story into a universal meditation on love, loss and, ultimately, forgiveness.
Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 11 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Jan. 18. Continues through Feb. 24, 2008

LA Weekly