‘I Am My Own Wife’ exquisitely crafted
This exquisitely crafted dramatic production playing at the Red Barn Theatre is a profound story of the resilience and survival of the human spirit.
Based on a true story, this Pulitzer Prize-winning play tells the fascinating tale of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an East German man who survived the Nazis and the Communists while dressed as a woman. Perceived as a harmless eccentric by the authorities, underneath was a person who knew who he was. Despite the horrific risks, he was able to live his life without compromising his true self.
Written by Doug Wright, the story centers on a series of interviews he conducted in the early 1990’s. Doug is fascinated with Charlotte and becomes obsessed with learning his life’s story. In the beginning we see Charlotte’s passionate appreciation of art and music, which offer solace from a violent Father. The turning point comes when a favorite Aunt find him wearing her clothes. She sympathizes with her nephew’s plight, declaring she should have been born a man and he a woman. Charlotte now recognizes he is a transgender individual. What follows is the story of his fierce protection of the German gay community during two of history’s most repressive regimes. Intertwined within the pathos of war is Charlotte’s extensive collection of furniture, clocks, gramophones and music. These collections are turned into a large museum, originally a mansion that is now open to the public. The museum basement holds a famous gay bar that was saved from the wrecking ball, and provides safe haven for 30 years for gays and lesbians during the oppressive East German regime.
Tom Wahl is an actor with tremendous depth and talent, and makes it look easy to pull off a one-man show. His delivery is nuanced and interspersed with contemporary humor. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Tom’s language skills and ability to play multiple people in the same scene set him apart from most actors. He moves easily from the soft-spoken German transvestite Charlotte to the American reporter and his publisher. Even more amazing are all the different personas who emerge when news of Charlotte’s collaboration with the Stasi are made public. He manages to pull off sound bites from London and Paris to Beijing. Tom Wahl starred in I am My Own Wife at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. His performance merited receipt of the Carbonell Award for Best Actor in a Play and the Silver Palm Award for outstanding performance in a play.
Stuart Meltzer, Artistic Director and founder of the Zoetic Stage in Miami, returned to Key West to direct this production.
I Am My Own Wife is only playing at the Red Barn Theater for a total of 10 days, beginning Wednesday, March 5 through the 15. The Red Barn Theater is located at 319 Duval St, Key West. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at: 305-296-9911 or on-line at www.redbarntheatre.com
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