Sunday, February 12, 2006

Review of "I am my own Wife"

I cannot recall so many standing ovations in one year of my Canadian Stage subscription, and I cannot recall a more mediocre season overall. "Who is Sylvia?" and "A Number" have been briliiant (and did not get standing ovations), but so much else that has been so rewarded has been so disappointing.
"I am my own Wife" is an interesting play, about an interesting person. It has the problem that it is written by a complete enthusiast for the subject of the play; I think one symptom of this is that the author does not work hard enough to convince a skeptical audience that the subject is worthy of attention. We saw this earlier with Greenblatt's show based on Tom Lehrer - now the problem there is that Greenblatt's notion of Tom Lehrer is an infinitely more boring Tom Lehrer than the real man. The *real* Tom Lehrer is decidedly worthy of interest and attention - the Tom Lehrer imagined by Greenblatt is paper-thin and bland by comparison.
Here, with Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, I have no idea. The person seems quite interesting, having survived what should have been enormous opposition to live out a life as a German transvestite in inimical environments (Nazi Germany and East Germany). This *is* remarkable, but given Doug Wright's somewhat confused idolatry, I have no idea what to believe from the play I saw. In any case, I never felt involved enough in Doug Wright's hero-worship to care a lot about the subject of the play.
Stephen Ouimette, an actor I loved in the second season of 'Slings and Arrows', had to play everybody in the play. Charlotte was a character worth playing, and I think I would have been more contented had there been no other characters. A play could have been written this way but Doug Wright chose not to - he even wrote himself in as a character. And it did not help. None of the secondary characters helped.
Two more show this year. Two more standing ovations?? In one way I hope so.


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