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Mays Day

Jefferson Mays couldn’t imagine a role more foreign to him than a 65-year-old East German transvestite—which is why he jumped at it.

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Wifely Duty: Jefferson Mays minus black dress and pearls.  

When Jefferson Mays first spoke to playwright Doug Wright about I Am My Own Wife, he was immediately attracted to the lead role. “Doug said, ‘Do you want to play a 65-year-old East German transvestite?’ I just couldn’t think of anything further from me at all. So I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ” There is, perhaps, nothing further from standard Broadway fare—this week Wife begins previews at the Lyceum—than Mays’s one-man tour de force as the late Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who survived both the Nazis and the Stasi. (It’s certainly no Hairspray.) But the buzz surrounding Mays’s performance in the play’s Off Broadway run—in a black dress and pearls, he seamlessly channeled Von Mahlsdorf and other characters—is already making Wife a hot ticket. There’s even talk of taking it to Europe. “A couple of German theaters want it, which would be very exciting and terrifying.” So Mays could end up being a 65-year-old East German transvestite way longer than he ever imagined. “Yes,” he says, laughing, “this could be my Count of Monte Cristo.”


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