Seattle Repertory Theatre presents the profound, controversial true story I Am My Own Wife, from the playwright of Quills and Grey Gardens, Doug Wright. Seattle actor and singer Nick Garrison inhabits the main character—a transvestite who lived openly in Nazi Germany—as well as more than 30 other characters in the play. I Am My Own Wife runs for four weeks only, Feb. 3.-March. 4, 2012, in Seattle Rep’s intimate Leo K. Theatre.
Tickets are available now through the Seattle Rep Box Office at 206-443-2222, as well as online.
In 2003, Wright finished a ten-year labor of love: the riveting portrait of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an elderly East German transvestite who had been living openly as a cross dresser under two of the twentieth century’s most conformist regimes: the Nazis and the Communists. The play premiered on Broadway in 2003 and won a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
“The audience comes to know Charlotte exactly as I did,” said Wright. “And along the way, they become (I hope) as infatuated with her as I happened to be. And her history gets told, but it’s personalized, because she's telling a friend.”
Nick Garrison first captured my attention in "This," produced at Seattle Rep last season. The nuance and snarky honesty of his performance made the show for me. Garrison is a recognizable Seattle actor, having starred in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Laramie Project and others around town. He also lists traveling with the show Cabaret as one of the things that sparked his interest in German culture.
On opening night Garrison had the nerve-wracking honor of performing this one-man, semi-autobiographical show before the writer, Doug Wright. While some line memorization still seemed rough, and transitions between certain characters were especially jerky, the overall production still managed to be stunning. This is due primarily to Garrison's heartfelt performance and his ability to seem completely honest and vulnerable in front of an audience. Even when he falters, the character is still there, complex, vibrant, and real. He is particularly strong in the main role of the play: Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, and a small but significant character, Jonathan Marks. These characters were real, clearly defined and distinct from all others. Moreover, Garrison does what it is imperative but difficult to do with a one-person show: he keeps the audience mesmerized, and occasionally we forget we have been listening to the same voice for an hour and a half, because, in a very real way, we haven't. Both Wright as the author and Garrison as the phonograph of his words have given these characters unique and distinct voices that unravel a beautiful and intriguing story of survival, loss, resilience and nostalgia.
I Am My Own Wife runs through March 4 in the Leo K. Theatre. How To Write A New Book of the Bible is running concurrently in the Bagley Wright.