Newark, Del. —
The University of Delawares Resident Player's Ensemble begins its second season with a stirring and contemplative one-man tour de force, “I am my own Wife” by Doug Wright.
For 90 minutes, professional actor Michael Gotch transfixes the audience in his portrayal of 35 characters including Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transvestite who lived and survived in East Germany during the oppressive regimes of Hitler and Communism.
It's a true story, leaving the audience to decide for themselves the virtues and vices of this alleged Stasi (Communist secret police agent) von Mahlsdorf. His renditions include SS officers, American soldiers, German news anchors, Japanese, Indians and a motley crew of fellow travelers of this “amasser of antique gramophones, records, clocks and furniture” in Germany's Golden Age.
Aisle Say normally rolls its eyes at one-man productions, “Mark Twain Tonight” being the exception. But Gotch had his characters and their voices so tightly woven and focused that the recent packed house at the intimate Studio Theatre of the gorgeous Roselle Center for the Arts was totally absorbed.
Ninety minutes of seamless characters changes (with an intermission) did not deter.
In 1934, at age six, Lothar Berfelde realized he was born in the wrong body and “escaped” the stirrings within him by listening to and collecting gramophones and records. At age 15 he changed his name to Charlotte and managed to avoid the Nazi's sweeping arrests of nearly 100,000 homosexuals.
Charlotte's home became a museum and an underground meeting place for the East Berlin gay community for three decades. In 1993 she was recognized by the German government with the prestigious Order of Merit, in honor of the cultural contribution of her museum.
Gotch first performed this show at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater from whence Sandy Robbins snatched this consummate actor for UD REP. Gotch was an MFA grad of the Professional Actors Theatre Program here in Newark.
The entire second season of REP and its Professional Theatre Training Program deserve our joyous support. Aisle Say said last year, that this group is unequivocally the greatest production company in Delaware.
With each opening curtain, they sustain this mantle.
This year some of America's beloved classics will be produced at below standard prices, through the production values are those of Broadway shows. Case closed.
Sandy Robbins, the visionary behind the program, synthesizes why live theatre is so invaluable.
“Live theatre offers us a great many important, even necessary experiences,” she says. “It allows us to see issues of the day in a new light. A play can touch the hearts and remind us of the blessing of being alive when nothing in our daily lives occurs as uplifting.”
President Harker has created the concept of a “Path to Prominence” for all things UD.
One can only imagine his auditors' collective paroxysms when they analyze the costs of the production versus the revenue generated. Yet there is no greater tribute to this man's vision than each and every production of Sandy Robbins' players.
Upcoming shows include “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Death Of A Salesman,” “Dancing at Lughnasa” and “Two Gentlemen of Verona.”
Aisle Say plans to have an aisle seat.
For more information, call 302.831.2204, or visit PTTP.udel.edu
Greer Firestone lives in Brandywine Hundred. He draws from a half-century of involvement in Delaware's theatre scene to write about arts and the business of art in the First State.