I attended a production of I Am My Own Wife on February 13, 2012. The production played in the Leo K. Theatre. I had not attended a play in this space before and no idea that it’s kind of like a little jewelbox theatre. The stage is large, high (not very deep) but the seats are squished up against the stage. It looks like a grand hall in miniature. There is a balcony, box seats, etc. It was really the perfect setting for realizing the play because it allowed the director and designers to be grand while evoking intimacy.
I don’t mean to start off talking about the space the play was set in, but that was the biggest element that struck me that night. I chose my seats online, not knowing that sitting in the second row meant I would be watching the play like an IMAX movie. I couldn’t take in the whole set or even the actor at once. As he flitted across the stage, I had to keep craning my neck, and some visual moments were lost on me because of my poor angle. For the second act, I moved to the back row and was able to fully take in the piece while knowing what each element actually looked like from seeing it so close during the first act.
Now onto the play. I Am My Own Wife is a sweet, yet mysterious, story about a German transvestite who survived the Nazi invasion and Communist occupation in Eastern Germany. She went by Charlotte von Mahlsdorf and lived into the 21st century. Her story was full of twists and turns, because the playwright structured the play around his own interactions with Charlotte. All of the characters were played by one, superb actor, who used facial expressions and gestures to differentiate between them. It was very impressive. I am not a fan of one-man shows, but I applauded the playwright’s admittance that it was nearly impossible for him to write a true biography of this woman, so instead he wrote from the perspective he understood: his own.
The costumes were simple, since the actor wore the same dress almost the whole time. The set included a fun reveal which lost its power when they tried it again in the second act, but the first time it was really cool. A scrim that had been painted with a phrase from part of the Berlin Wall was suddenly lit from behind to reveal various types of furniture that Charlotte had collected throughout her lifetime. The remainder of the set was sparse, which I thought was a great contrast to how Charlotte lived her life: crammed full of collections. The director said in the talkback afterward that that was the designer’s choice. I thought it worked well, especially in the small theatre.
This production was a good introduction to the smaller space at Seattle Rep for me. It’s not my favorite kind of theatre to see but it was done well and I respect that.