Randall Nott Electrifies in “I Am My Own Wife”

Randall Nott Electrifies in “I Am My Own Wife”
Randall Nott as Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf in “I Am My Own Wife” through March 24 at Campbell Martinez Theatre. (Photo: Jamie Jobb, Traveling Light Studio)

Randall Nott is a one-man tour de force in his portrayal of 36 characters in Doug Wright’s “I Am My Own Wife, produced by the Onstage Theatre.  The play dramatizes the true life Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf. This German transvestite managed to survive the Nazi attack and then the East German Communist Regime, by hiding in plain sight as a transgender woman.

Mahlsdorf was a curator of nineteenth-century antiquities at the Gründerzeit Museum in East Berlin. The museum served as a key meeting place for LGBT citizens during WW2. Wright serves as a curator to Mahlsdorf’s history of homophobia and Anti-Semitism and his play is drawn from a decade long series of interviews between Wright and the German antiquarian, born as Lothar Berfelde. “Charlotte is a rare artifact; she doesn’t run a museum, she is one,” he writes.

Nott is mesmerizing in the role. Well-crafted physicalizations, accents and vocal dynamics add nuance to each of his distinct characters.  The skilled actor captivates the audience and it is magical to watch the agility with which he draws them into a complex story.

Behind the scenes
The company’s Artistic Director Helen Means, who has worked with Nott for over 40 year, keeps “I Am My Own Wife” moving swiftly while orchestrating the humor in tragic situations.   Like a museum docent, Diane McRice’s detailed set draws in the audience by effectively incorporating Nott’s multi-media display with 3-d props.  Costume Designer K.C. Chatham’s use of subtle dark house dress, accessorized with a scarf, orthopedic black shoes and strand of simple white pearls dress allows Nott to flawlessly transform through a variety of characters framing Mahlsdorf’s controversial history.  Allison Means serves as Assistant Director, helping Nott’s sound design to frame the period.

“I am My Own Wife” is a proud story of survival and resistance.  The winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play, the play entertains audiences while hinting at the high personal cost of surviving oppression and bigotry.  The show runs through March 24 on Thursday-Sunday at the Martinez Campbell Theatre, 636 Ward St.  For tickets, call 925- 350-9770 or visit campbelltheater.com.

Kathryn G. McCarty is well-known around the Bay Area as an educator, playwright and journalist. Send comments to KGMcCarty@gmail.com.

Kathryn G. McCarty