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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

An Icy if Fascinating I Am My Own Wife
at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Also see David's review of Chicago

I Am My Own Wife
Nick Garrison
Doug Wright is a compelling playwright who loves to write about fascinatingly bizarre folks, from the Marquis de Sade in Quills to the batty Beales of the musical Grey Gardens to the notorious transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf in his much admired one actor play I Am My Own Wife. Seattle Repertory Theatre has mounted the play under the direction of its Artistic Director Jerry Manning, after having to postpone it a few seasons back, and it stars always compelling Seattle actor Nick Garrison as not only the lady in question, but also as Wright himself and several other key figures in Charlotte's fascinating life journey.

Wright fashioned his play after many years of interviewing Charlotte, and it jumps backward and forward in time as we piece together a picture of a boy named Lothar Berfelde who always felt he should have been born a girl. Garrison fashions a rather charming persona of Charlotte, a complex and calculating person who was first and foremost a survivor, through WWII and subsequently East Berlin, where she was suspected of selling out to the secret police agency known as the Stasi.

I have seen the play done and done well both on Broadway and in a previous Seattle staging. On Broadway, it felt more as though we were seeing Charlotte through the playwright's eyes, while locally it felt as if Charlotte was really telling the story, and the playwright was a rapt audience. This version is closer to the Broadway perspective and, though both are valid, I may admit a prejudice to the latter approach. This does not take away from director Manning or actor Garrison's achievement at the Rep, and in fact Garrison has seldom given a richer more varied performance, and one unlike any of his past performances, which allows him to break into personas far removed from his own essence. Garrison says as much with his silences and facial gestures as he does with his lines, creating Charlotte's whole intriguing world with clarity and theatricality, mixed stirred, and shaken.

Scenic designer Jennifer Zeyl has created a minimalist set that shows us Charlotte's world and memories, as hypnotically lit by lighting designer Robert J. Aguilar. I Am My Own Wife takes on an almost cinematic feeling in the Manning/Garrison collaboration. I have no doubt it will in fact become a film (paging Alan Cummings?), but till then, this remains a must for Seattle theatergoers, and especially Garrison groupies.

The run of I Am My Own Wife has been extended by popular demand through March 10, 2012, at Seattle Repertory Theatre in the Leo K space in Seattle Center. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Rep box office at 206-443-2222 or visit them online at www.seattlerep.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David Edward Hughes



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