One actor plays 36 roles telling story of transvestite in Nazi Germany

By Steve Bornfeld
Posted: Apr. 14, 2011 | 2:01 a.m.
Updated: Apr. 14, 2011 | 11:38 a.m.

Pronounce it properly (on the off chance that someone at a party asks your views on World War II-era German transvestites):

“Trons-ves-TEAT.” Glam-ham drag queen? Actually, plain black dress. Black orthopedic shoes. Barbara Bush-y string of pearls. At age 65, a “tranny granny” who “doesn’t have breasts, but just enough paunch to give the illusion.”

Say hiya (“ha-loh” in German) to Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, dead nine years, alive onstage via Cory Benway.

“There are no ‘w’ sounds in German,” stage manager Denda Brink cautions the actor midmonologue, in midrehearsal, about his German-accented English.

“I’ve got a week and a half to learn this (expletive),” says Benway as Benway. “What I don’t know I’ll make up. Who the hell’s going to know?”

Dude/dame is kidding. And a week and a half is down to one day, as the one-man/woman “I Am My Own Wife” opens Friday at the Onyx Theatre, featuring the respected local actor performing … is this right? … 36 characters?

Director Joe Hynes corrects our math. “It’s 37,” Hynes says. “We’re also having him take tickets.”

Offbeat, with outstanding pedigree (scoring the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for drama and Tony Award for best play), “Wife” puts Benway in girly getups for the third time in Las Vegas — he previously portrayed Dr. Frank N’ Furter in “The Rocky Horror Show” and the title character in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” — for a “tranny trifecta.”

Playwright Doug Wright’s “Wife” recounts his interviews with von Mahlsdorf, a renowned antiquarian who died at age 74 in 2002

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