I AM My Own Wife

Posted By Brie Austin In Category: On Stage , Reviews

I am my own wife, the play

I AM My Own Wife is a play about Charlotte, who realized at an early age that “she” didn’t identify with being a he, and it was through a loving grand mother- and a book about transvestism that her grandmother provided —  that Charlotte came to understand and accept her female identity. The writer believed he found in Charlotte “a true iconoclastic gay hero,” by the mere fact that she not only existed, but, did so publicly as a gay transvestite during both the Nazi and communist Stasi rule over Germany and East Germany, respectively.

But he (Doug Wright) told the NY Times, “she did what all hero’s do, she disappointed me.” Charlotte was equal parts victim and informant – according to her Stasi file. But it is a compelling story nonetheless. It opened in December to rave reviews (due in large part to the subject matter, and the brilliant acting of Jefferson Mays, who plays three dozen characters in the one-man show).  The show has been drawing what appeared — to me — to be an older more mature and conservative crowd: 60 Minutes co-editor Morley Saffer sat next to me this night.  After the final curtain he told me that indeed he enjoyed the show, as he wiped tears from his face.

According to Doug Wright, the data he collected for the show sat on his shelf for five years before he was prompted to write the play. And it took another three years to get to Broadway. He didn’t create a “hymn to honor Charlotte,” as he first intended, but did create a fascinating character study of a trans-woman who had an idiosyncrasy with antiques, operated a museum by day, and a gay club in it’s basement at night.

I AM My Own Wife

He allows the audience to peek into her life from two points of view and come away with their own conclusions. The force of this play was not so much about being transgender, as it was about being different and standing tall. Charlotte von Malsdorf defied the odds and lived life on her own terms, and this play is a testament to one trans-woman’s ability to bend, without breaking. “I Am My Own Wife,” is simple, complicated and eloquently delivered.

NOTE: several months after this review the play won the following awards:

•       Winner 2004 Tony awards:  best actor, best play

•       Winner 2004 Pulitzer Prize for drama

•       Winner 2004 Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding solo performance, Outstanding play

•       WINNER 2004 LUCILLE LORTEL AWARDS: Outstanding Solo Show,

Outstanding Scenic Design

•       WINNER 2004 OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS: Outstanding Broadway Play, Outstanding Solo Performance

•       WINNER 2004 DRAMA LEAGUE AWARD: Distinguished Production of a Play

•       WINNER 2004 THEATRE WORLD AWARDS: Jefferson Mays

•       WINNER 2004 OBIE AWARDS: Jefferson Mays (Performance)

Moisés Kaufman (Direction) Derek McLane, (set Design)


About Brie Austin

Co-author of I'd Do It Again, he is a columnist/reporter for a variety of magazines in the areas of music, lifestyle, nightlife, travel and business. He also writes business documents and creates copy for websites.

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