I Am My Own Wife at Signature Theatre

Imagine that you're an actor. Now imagine that a theatre calls you and says that they want to perform a one-man show where you play 35 different characters. Oh, and one of them is a German transvestite. You're also going to have to learn some German. Not all actors would be up to this challenge, but Andrew Long, who said yes to Signature Theatre's offer, does it with poise and a lot of humor.

Playwright Doug Wright spent a lot of time in Berlin, Germany, interviewing Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (nee Lothar Berfelde) for this Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Everything in the script actually happened. It's not only an incredible story of a woman's ability to survive in both World War II and the Cold War; it's also a seriously interesting history lesson. We learn about Charlotte's life as a young boy, then when she first discovered women's clothing, all the way to when she became one of the most famous people in Germany.

In Signature's 119-seat ARK Theatre, the stage is littered with wooden crates which contain key props. The back wall looks like a warehouse. It all gives the feeling of what Berlin must have been like when the wall went up. The dramatic lighting by Colin K. Bills takes you from a Stasi prison to a national talkshow to an illegal bar in Charlotte's basement and everywhere in between. It is an excellent complement to Wilson Chin's set design. The set doesn't give a specific setting - Chin allows the monologue to tell the audience where we are now.

Washington DC favorite Andrew Long moves like a silverfish between all of these characters. All it takes is the lift of an eyebrow, a slightly hunched posture, or a different tone of voice and he's someone new. Over the course of the1 hour and 50 minute play, Long portrays just about every kind of person you'd associate with WWII, including Nazi and Stasi officials. He does all of it in a black dress, a string of pearls, a black kerchief, and sensible black walking shoes. It is a stellar and moving performance of an incredibly personal play. The playwright makes several appearances throughout the show, and it's obvious that this project means the world to him. It won 2 Tonys when it was on Broadway in 2004, so his dedication definitely paid off. I left the theatre with several emotions within me. Everyone should see this show.

I Am My Own Wife
by Doug Wright
directed by Alan Paul
Signature Theatre
Running through March 7
Tickets $52-$86


Popular Posts