Wednesday, September 27, 2006

“Wife” Full Text and Sycamore Scary Stuff

Well, for some reason my “I Am My Own Wife” review is not on the Style website today, though it is in the magazine (really, honest it is!). For those who only peruse Style online, I’ve included the full text below.

But first, here’s a little announcement on behalf of Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg for all you theatrical folks who really get into the Halloween spirit (for more info, call Jonathan Elliot):

“We're looking for creative individuals with a sense of humor, mirth, and enjoyment of the Halloween spirit to help transform Sycamore Rouge into the ultimate haunted house. If you're ghoulishly talented at fiendishly decorating your own home every October, we invite you to use Sycamore Rouge's twelve thousand square foot facility as your canvas this year! We'll be hosting a brainstorming session at Sycamore Rouge this Sunday, October 1, from 1 to 3 pm. Light refreshments will be served, as we wander the dark corners of the facilities and plan all sorts of fun, spooky, and scary happenings.

The Haunted House will run from October 26-31, and will be available in two versions: "Kiddie"(ooooh! This spaghetti is really BRAINS!!!!) and "Adult"(masked men with chainsaws jumping out from dark corners). We need actors, designers, planners, hosts, builders for both versions--whether you want to be a kooky witch or design the perfect fright, we'd love to have your help!

If interested, please RSVP by responding to this email, or call Jonathan Elliott, Sycamore Rouge managing director, at (804) 957-5707, ext. 104.”

OK, and now here’s the review:

Wonder “Wife”
Portraying 35 characters, Wichmann is a one-man wonder in the Firehouse’s “I Am My Own Wife”
By David Timberline (409 words)

The first time Scott Wichmann changes character in the mesmerizing one-man show “I Am My Own Wife,” now playing at the Firehouse Theatre, the effect is as dramatic as a slap in the face. The remarkable actor does such an astounding job at embodying the aging, fussy, and slightly fey German transvestite Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf that it feels like waking up from a spell when he suddenly transforms into a very masculine American journalist about a dozen minutes into the play. But this is only the first of countless captivating moments as Wichmann goes on to portray 34 additional characters in order to tell the story of Von Mahlsdorf’s complex and seemingly impossible life.

Born Lothar Berfelde in 1928, Von Mahlsdorf discovered her predilection for girl’s clothes as a boy living in Berlin. It was her misfortune to live under two of the most repressive regimes of history, the Nazis and the Communists of East Germany, and yet somehow she survived, all the time pursuing an abiding love for antique furniture, clocks, and phonographs. Her dramatic story includes a stint in a German youth prison, close calls with soldiers during the fall of Berlin, and the clandestine support of the city’s underground gay movement. But how much of it is true? Playwright Doug Wright confronts this question by making himself a character in the show and portraying the creative crisis he faced when aspects of Charlotte’s account seemed to conflict with the facts.

It is breathtaking to watch Wichmann switch between characters, each drawn with impeccable clarity. But Charlotte is his masterpiece. Speaking in a hypnotic sing-songy lilt and armed with a knowing smile that is warm but also a bit sly, the actor makes Von Mahlsdorf empathetic, compelling and maddeningly elusive. Director Morrie Piersol supports Wichmann with occasionally inspired blocking and key lighting and sound effects (lighting design by Michael Mauren, sound by Ryan Corbett and Trey Pollard).

The show is not perfect; the “play about writing a play” conceit is a little too self-conscious and does not quite pay off in terms of dramatic tension. Edwin Slipek Jr.’s scenic design is dominated by the simple beauty of a few pieces of antique furniture but they contrast jarringly with an indistinct, angular backdrop (a map of Berlin, perhaps?) Still, fueled by Wichmann’s bravura performance and capped off by one last treat as you walk out of the theater, this is a production that shouldn’t be missed.

“I Am My Own Wife” runs Thursday – Saturday nights at 8pm, with Sunday matinees at 4pm, through October 7th at the Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad Street. Tickets are $10-20 and can be purchased by calling 355-2001.

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