LONDON — “I Am My Own Wife” is proving polygamous. Doug Wright’s Tony-winning drama, now in previews on the West End, is on course to reach an international public of an order virtually unheard of for a nonmusical’s original Broadway staging.
The London gig, once again starring Tony winner Jefferson Mays, opens its 14-week run Nov. 10 at the Duke of York’s. “This will be the first real test” of the material’s appeal outside the U.S., says Broadway producer David Richenthal, who is backing the London run with Anthony and Charlene Marshall. Play previously did limited stands in Dublin — at last month’s theater fest — and for a week in Krakow performed in English with Polish supertitles.
London marks the first extended stand of a play Richenthal expects to tour globally well into 2007, with a willing Mays along for the ride. “It remains a joyful experience to do every night,” says Mays, 40, who has been en travesti as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf — and the play’s 34 other characters — pretty much continuously since January 2003.”That’s so unusual,” says Richenthal, speaking the week a deal was inked to take Moises Kaufman’s production to Caracas, Venezuela, next April — “to have an actor stay in a play this long and basically travel the globe with it. If I could place our production in Tokyo, I know Jefferson would make that kind of a trip.” Singapore is possible, as well.
“Wife’s” ongoing trajectory is helped by the fact that the show’s assistant director happens to be Mays’ Australian wife of two years, Susan Lyons. That helps explain a five-month tour Down Under starting early July (Melbourne, Sydney and a third city). Three South African dates follow at the end of 2006, with Lyons keeping show — and spouse — company.
Richenthal is particularly keen to get “Wife” to Berlin, the city where von Mahlsdorf was born Lothar Berfelde in 1928. The hope there is for a German-language version of Kaufman’s staging, with Mays perhaps dropping in to do a guest stint in English with German supertitles. “Each country should have its own production,” says Richenthal, who has worldwide rights. He’s looking for a Spanish star, for instance, to headline Madrid.
A more immediate question concerns reactions in London, where numerous Tony and/or Pulitzer successes have fallen foul of British crix — “Proof,” “How I Learned to Drive” and “The Heidi Chronicles,” among them. “There is that worry,” Richenthal says of a staging costing roughly half the $1.2 million Broadway sum. “It will be ‘Field of Dreams’ theater — either people will run to it or they won’t.”