Lisa Gauthier

I Am My Own Wife

Phoenix Theatre

Directed by Bryan D. Fonseca

Through Nov. 27

Andy Robensteine in Phoenix's 'I Am My Own Wife'

I Am My Own Wife is more than just the story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German transvestite who survived the Nazi and Communist regimes. It is the story of playwright Doug Wright, who became obsessed with her story. And it is also the story of a person, not a "transvestite" or a "survivor," who takes life one step at a time, doing the best she can to live.

The show isn't "draggy" - the fact that Charlotte is a transvestite isn't central to the action. In the end, "Germany's most controversial transvestite" is just a human being trying to live in a nation deteriorating around her.

In a mix of heavily accented English and German, Andy Rabensteine holds court over the stage as Charlotte - but also as a host of other characters in this one-man show. At the age of 65, Charlotte was "discovered" by Wright, and much of the narrative involves him conducting interviews with her. The story is intriguing, and you easily become sucked into Charlotte's tales - from early childhood, to becoming a furniture collector, to friendships that were suspect by the powers that be.

Rabensteine handles each switch of character flawlessly. underneath you can see a touch of the soft and feminine that makes Charlotte, born Lothar, who she is.

Bryan Fonseca's set design is elegant, utilizing transparent drapery that is lit when more of the stage is needed.

I Am My Own Wife won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as the 2004 Tony Award for Best Play, among other accolades.

It will be at the Phoenix Theatre, 749 N. Park Ave., through Nov. 27; call 635-PLAY,, for tickets, $25.


The Alley Theatre

Directed by Michelle Kelley and Christine Feay

Through Nov. 19

The Alley Theatre presents a rendition of Rope that begins by playing off the cheesy aspects of the script, but, like the play itself, ends by exploring the darker aspects of human nature.

Set in 1949, Harvard students Brandon and Charles commit murder of a fellow student just to feel the thrill of killing, then have a small party with the corpse tucked away in a trunk that serves as the table for their guests.

Neal Eggeson is a swaggering and sweating Brandon by turns. His smug sense of satisfaction turns into steaming wrath when confronted by obstacles. Eggeson gives a standout performance here. Jeff Lovell as Charles also gives a notable performance, revealing an inability to deal with what has just occurred.

Derek C. Wilham as the poetic and suspicious Rupert shows great restraint when juxtaposed with the two killers. His cool composure is the foil for Eggeson and Lovell.

Rounding out the cast are characters that help to give the show more levity: James Kelley and Kim Jordan as two innocents, Tom Abeel as the murdered boy's father and Christine Feay as the maid and Abeel's dotty sister.

A few moments drag, especially the beginning of Act 3, but others make up for it.

Rope, at the Alley Theatre, continues through Nov. 19. The Alley is located at 1716 N. Illinois St. Call 926-8888 for tickets, $15.

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