The first preview is a pay-what-you-can performance. The work 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) and opens May 27 at the new mainstage of Off-Broadway's PH complex on West 42nd Street. Performances continue to June 8.
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."
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 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).
Playwrights Horizons is at 416 W. 42nd Street. Tickets for I Am My Own Wife are $50. For subscription and ticket information to all Playwrights Horizons productions, call (212) 279-4200, or visit www.playwrightshorizons.org.
Next at the intimate Peter J. Sharp studio theatre on the fourth floor of the PH building is Theresa Rebeck's Bad Dates (June 3-29), starring Julie White, navigating monologues about — you guessed it — bad dates.