This is the real-life story of the playwright’s discovery and subsequent obsession with Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, “the most singular, eccentric individual the Cold War ever birthed” according to Doug Wright. East Berlin’s most famous transvestite, Charlotte survived a brutal father, the Nazis and the Cold War. She collected odds and ends for decades, and after the war she turned her house into a museum, preserving furniture, clocks and, most of all, records. But she also preserved a piece of Berlin’s homosexual history with her rescue of one of Berlin’s most famous gay night clubs reassembled in her basement the night before it was to be destroyed.
Helen Hayes Award-winner Andrew Long gives a phenomenal performance, playing the part of 36 characters. Each one was distinguishable by an accent, the change of pitch or the shrug of a shoulder. The character that came fully alive, of course, was Charlotte. Long captured her courage, strength, and energy, while at the same time showing her frailty.
The play gains traction in the second half when Charlotte’s Communist files are opened and the playwright has to cope with a fallen hero who may have spied for the Stasi to stay alive. It becomes less a narrative and more a study of human character, of reality versus the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive, and finally of the ability to admire a life that has been used, showing dents and scars like the antique pieces Charlotte preserved.
The set made wonderful use of the intimate space, and the lighting and sound brought everything together.
This is a brilliant, moving drama and should rank high on your list of plays to see in the next few months.
I Am My Own Wife
Written by Doug Wright
Directed by Alan Paul
Scenic design by Wilson Chin
Costume design by Kathleen Geldard
Lighting design by Colin K. Bills
Sound design by Veronika Vorel