I Am My Own Wife Will Cross Broadway Threshhold; Lyceum Gets Wright Solo Play

News   I Am My Own Wife Will Cross Broadway Threshhold; Lyceum Gets Wright Solo Play Producer David Richenthal is putting together a plan to bring the talked-about new play, I Am My Own Wife, to Broadway's Lyceum Theatre this fall.
Jefferson Mays in I Am My Own Wife.
Jefferson Mays in I Am My Own Wife. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The producer known for the award-winning Broadway revivals of Death of a Salesman and Long Day's Journey Into Night is picking up the Playwrights Horizons production of the one-actor Doug Wright play — starring Jefferson Mays playing some 40 characters — following its lauded New York debut at Off-Broadway's PH (where it closed Aug. 3).

Details about the Broadway engagement are still being put together, a spokesman said. The Lyceum was previously mentioned as the home for a Broadway-bound revival of Harvey.

Harvey is expected to make the Cort Theatre its hutch, but that has not been officially announced.

The unique I Am My Own Wife defies easy categorization — is it a play? a character study? a theatrical investigation? It got a second extension at Playwrights Horizons following critics' laurels and piqued audience interest.

Jefferson Mays performs more than 40 international characters (including the character of playwright Wright) involved in the world of German transvestite Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf. The show is so unusual — an actor is a black dress and pearls plays a world of male and female roles on a mostly blank set punctuated with props — that it needs an especially imaginative producer and marketing team to take it to the next stage.

The life of late Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf, who survived the Nazis and the communists, is explored in the new work, with the Wright character 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."

Producers have expressed interest in the show recently 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.

I Am My Own Wife opened at PH's mainstage on West 42nd Street May 27 after previews from May 2. It extended twice to Aug. 3.

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

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Based on a true story, and inspired by interviews conducted by the playwright over several years, I Am My Own Wife tells the tale of "Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a real-life German transvestite who managed to survive both the Nazi onslaught and the following, repressive Communist regime," according to production notes. "The one-man play stars Obie-Award winner Jefferson Mays as a host of characters, including the controversial figure herself and an American writer who becomes intrigued by her."

The artists involved come with choice credits. Wright is the respected Obie and Kesselring Award-winning author of the play, Quills, and its screenplay; Kaufman is the director and co-creator of Gross Indecency and The Laramie Project (initiated by Tectonic Theater Project, which he founded and artistic-directs); and Obie Award winner Mays appeared in Quills, Lydie Breeze and Orestes Off-Broadway.

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