This one-man show tells a fascinating, enigmatic true-life story about Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transgendered German who survived under the Nazi regime and the brutal Soviet-controlled puppet government of East Germany. Doug Wright’s play, based on Charlotte’s autobiography and his own interviews with her, examines not only the cost of that survival but how his relationship with Charlotte evolved over time. The performance is nothing short of riveting: under the direction of Moises Kaufman, Tony winner Jefferson Mays plays Charlotte, Wright, and a slew of secondary characters. But Mays’s virtuosic range wouldn’t matter if his Charlotte weren’t such a compelling creation. Regaling us with tales of narrow escapes from SS officers and Russian invaders and her forays into the gay underworld of train stations and “tearooms” (public lavatories), Mays’s Charlotte seems charming and transparent, a sweet little tranny granny. Yet the more time we spend with her, the more troublingly elusive she becomes. As in his staging of One Arm for About Face at Steppenwolf last month, Kaufman proves himself a superb director with a keen eye for imagery and nuanced acting. I Am My Own Wife is must-see theater that raises the bar for other companies. Through 2/20: Wed 7:30 PM, Thu 2 and 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 and 7:30 PM. Tue 2/1 and 2/15, 7:30 PM. Sat 1/22, 8 PM only. Sun 2/6 and 2/13, 2 PM only. Thu 2/10 and 2/17, 7:30 PM only. Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, 312-443-3800 (TTY 312-443-3829). $20-$60.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.