Charlotte von Mahlsdorf survived two of the most oppressive regimes the world has ever known: Hitler’s Nazi command and Communist East Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The fact that she was a transvestite made her survival even more impressive and her story is told in the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama I Am My Own Wife, now playing at Signature Theatre.
Playwright Doug Wright based the one-man play, which also garnered the 2004 Tony Award for Best Play, on his own research into von Mahlsdorf’s life.
Born Lothar Berfelde, von Mahlsdorf lived her life as a woman and became known for her collection of simple, every- day items, which evolved into the Grunderzeit Museum. The museum became well known in the artistic and gay community and she became the cause celebre of those persecuted for alternative lifestyles.
What is an intriguing story becomes mesmerizing in the hands of Helen Hayes Award-winner Andrew Long, who portrays all 36 characters in the spellbinding play.
A Shakespearean trained actor, Long turns in a brilliant performance that requires him to transition between various voices with differing accents a feat he accomplishes with vivid persuasion and precise timing. So memorable are his characters that it is difficult to remember that Long is the lone actor on the stage.
Directed by Alan Paul with an innovative set designed by Wilson Chin, Wife is an intellectually absorbing tour de force that provides a powerful evening of entertainment.
I Am My Own Wife is playing through March 7 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. For more information, call 703-820-9771 or visit www.signature-theatre.org.