I Am My Own Wife
By Doug White
Directed by Alan Bruun
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL
While cross dressing still carries a stigma in today’s occasionally tolerant world, it was even less accepted in the Nazi/Communist world of East Germany during and after the War. In this gripping one man show, Keith Kirkwood sheds his Scots accent and adopts a mélange of “Aw shucks” American and a fairly decent Prussian tinged Deutsch to tell the story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, nee Lothar Berfelde. As a child, Charlotte took quickly to women’s clothing and spent her childhood in a peasant dress on her Aunt’s East Prussian horse farm, murdered her violent father, avoided Nazi assassination as the Reich crumbled, and survived as an antiques dealer and occasional Stassi informant until the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1990. Besides preserving herself, Charlotte saved on of the last Weimar cabarets, rebuilding it in the basement of her home outside of Berlin.
While the story is convoluted and sometimes self contradictory, there’s a humanity and sympathy underlying it that makes Kirkwood’s precise and carefully thought out actions entrancing. He mixes German and English, sometimes translating, sometimes not as he retells the surreal story in matter of fact tones. The central fetish of his life is a collection of gramophones and mechanical musical machines, and Charlotte amassed 12 thousand disks and cylinders. Many of them may have come from deported Jews and refugees from the Communists, but sometimes all you can save are the bones of the dead. Kirkwood imbues all 37 characters with distinct voices, even if his Americans seem a bit over played. It’s a story of bravery and fatalism, along with a marvelous acting performance.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com