Personal stories are always powerful, inspirational and complex, as are we the humans upon which they’re based. We are not perfect, but we all strive, or should, for reaching our full potential as humans and all that this implies.
Movies and television have the director as auteur along with an army of technicians. The live stage, however, is the medium and province of the actor. Grand and significant ideas come alive when performed by live actors. The connection between actor and audience is instantaneous. It can be both breathtaking and mesmerizing; it is often transformative on the part of the audience. Those are powerful components that make an evening spent in the theatre well worth the effort.
CV REP Artistic Director and founder Ron Celona once again brings a potent and compelling production to Rancho Mirage audiences. This time it’s a production of playwright Doug Wright’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning drama “I Am My Own Wife”, performed by gifted New York City-based actor Vince Gatton.
Gatton portrays a mind-blowing 35 characters in a brilliant tour de force performance, speaking and translating as he goes in English, German, and French. It’s an astonishing accomplishment by an actor.
Playwright Doug Wright, when asked why he chose to craft his play about Germany’s famous transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, along with her memories, diaries and comments from others during the German Weimar days, says that it is only fitting for a single actor to play all 35 roles. His ‘raison d’etre’ reply was “Charlotte had to adopt a variety of guises in order to survive after all, so why not let one actor adopt a variety of guises to tell her story?” And what a story it is.
I had the opportunity last November to meet Doug Wright and briefly discuss his 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning play at the American Theatre Critic Association meeting in New York City. It was an illuminating experience. He’s tall, incredibly intelligent, extremely articulate, and easily accessible to interviewers. As the current President of the Dramatist’s Guild of America, Wright is a the ‘go-to playwright’ for theatre critics to interview.
Celona’s seamless staging and direction of “I Am My Own Wife” is a mesmerizing theatrical experience which is underscored by the amazing performance of his star Vince Gatton. There are so many finely nuanced character moments in this powerful and haunting re-creation of long ago events now brought so vividly to life by Gatton as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf and others in her complicated and complex life. It’s an exceptional performance that should not be missed by audiences of the Coachella Valley.
In the technical department, Germany of the 1930s and 40s springs to life on a stunningly beautiful set created by Resident Production Design wizard Jimmy Cuomo that is creatively lit by Lighting Designer Moira Wilkie, who bathes the stage in mood-inducing shafts of light. Also spot-on is Gatton’s costume, designed by Aalsa Lee, which gives him a character as well as a functional costume required for various pieces of stage business.
“I Am My Own Wife” performs at CV REP Theatre, in Rancho Mirage, CA and runs through March 27, 2016. Call the Box Office at 760-296-2966 for tickets.