Chicago Staging of I Am My Own Wife Extends Its Run

News   Chicago Staging of I Am My Own Wife Extends Its Run
 
The Chicago mounting of the Tony-winning Doug Wright play I Am My Own Wife, starring Tony-winning actor Jefferson Mays, has extended its run at the Goodman Theatre after playing only a few performances.
Jefferson Mays in I Am My Own Wife
Jefferson Mays in I Am My Own Wife Photo by Joan Marcus

The work, staged by original director Moises Kaufman, began previews on Jan. 8. A run through Feb. 13 has now been stretched to Feb. 20.

Jefferson Mays stars not only as German tranvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (born Lothar Berfelde) but dozens of other characters, including a character based on Doug Wright himself. The multiple points of view and vibrant theatricality undoubtedly led to its 2004 Tony Award for Best Play and 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Tony and Pulitzer wins represented the first time a solo work won those awards.

Jefferson Mays received the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actor in Play.

The Moisés Kaufman-directed production began its New York life at Off Broadway's Playwrights Horizons in spring-summer 2003. Produced by Delphi Productions, it transferred to Broadway, opening Dec. 3, 2003. By the Oct. 31, 2004, close, it will have played 26 previews and 361 performances. After the Goodman, the show will stop at San Francisco's Curran Theatre in May 2005 and Los Angeles' Wadsworth Theatre of the Geffen Playhouse in June 2005.

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I Am My Own Wife, is a portrait of a steely and charming German transvestite who survived the Nazis and the communists. The unique I Am My Own Wife defies easy categorization — is it a play? a character study? a theatrical investigation? Playwright Wright even includes himself as a character (played by Mays in what observers say is a good vocal impersonation of the author), trying to unravel the mystery of the gentle Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.

Donning black cap and a black — almost austerely religious — tunic-skirt, Mays performs more than 40 international characters involved in the world of the delicate and unflamboyant Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who died before the play could see the light of day. She was aware of the writing of the project, however.

The Wright character finds himself increasingly frustrated that Charlotte cannot be easily dramatized or defined. Was she a gentle aesthete and German gay culture doyenne and hostess, or did she collaborate with the communist secret police? Or was she all of the above?

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