German Transvestite Is Singular Sensation of I Am My Own Wife, Bowing on Bway Nov. 11

News   German Transvestite Is Singular Sensation of I Am My Own Wife, Bowing on Bway Nov. 11
 
I Am My Own Wife, playwright Doug Wright's character study of a steely and charming German transvestite who survived the Nazis and the communists, begins previews at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre Nov. 11.
Jefferson Mays in I Am My Own Wife
Jefferson Mays in I Am My Own Wife Photo by Joan Marcus

Opening is Dec. 3. David Richenthal produces with partners Anthony & Charlene Marshall, in association with Playwrights Horizons, which staged the acclaimed Off Broadway premiere earlier this year.

Jefferson Mays brings his lauded performance as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (as well as some 40 other characters) to Broadway in a staging directed by Moisés Kaufman (The Laramie Project, Gross Indecency). The Playwrights Horizons run Off-Broadway ended Aug. 3. The work was previously seen publicly in a Chicago workshop run.

Tickets are now on sale via Telecharge at (212) 239-6200. The Lyceum is at 149 W. 45th Street.

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The unique I Am My Own Wife defies easy categorization — is it a play? a character study? a theatrical investigation? Playwright Wright even writes himself as a character, trying to unravel the mystery of the gentle Charlotte. Donning black cap and a black — almost austerely religious — tunic-skirt, Jefferson Mays performs more than 40 international characters involved in the world of German transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.

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?

Wright said in a statement: "I Am My Own Wife draws upon several sources: transcribed interviews I conducted with its subject, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, from our initial meeting in August of 1992 until January 1993; letters we exchanged until her death in 2002; newspaper accounts of her life in the public record; her Stasi file, and my own personal, sometimes selective remembrances of our encounters. I have taken the customary liberties of the dramatist (editing for clarity, condensing several pivotal characters into one utilitarian one, and imagining some scenes I only heard recounted), while inventing others for narrative clarity. While I hope the text does justice to the fundamental truths of Charlotte's singular life and essential character, it is not a definitive biography. It is, rather, a subjective, theatrical portrait."

The project is alluring to producers for a number of reasons: Because of the names involved, including Quills playwright Wright and Laramie Project creator Kaufman; the rave reviews; and the affordable cast size. At the center of it all is an indelible character and a unique way of telling her story.

I Am My Own Wife opened at PH's mainstage on West 42nd Street May 27 after previews from May 2. It extended twice, closing in August.

The play was developed in regional theatres around the country in developmental situations (the workshop run in Chicago that wasn't meant to be reviewed got raves).

Designers are Derek McLane (scenic), Janice Pytel (costume), David Lander (lighting) and Andre J. Pluess and Ben Sussman (sound).

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The Broadway opening was first announced as Nov. 24 (with previews to start on Oct. 28), but the start dates were changed to accommodate actor Mays, who worked on the feature film remake of "Alfie," starring Jude Law.

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