Daily Archives: January 22, 2010

I’m with Coco, Too: This Time It’s Horribly Personal

Well, that’s that. Nothing important has happened in the world, but Conan and NBC have reached détente. Tonight’s Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien will be the last. Conan is walking away with more than $30 million in eff-you dollars, and NBC will pony up another $12 million in severance pay for his staff, said to number around 200 people. ($60k per if everyone gets an equal share.) A non-disparagement clause will bind Conan from talking any more smack about his soon-to-be-former employer, at least for a few months. Fear not, the rest of the world will pick up the slack, I’m sure. Best of all, he’ll be free to return to TV as soon as September 1st.

So far, so good-as-could-have-been-expected. But all wars claim casualties. I don’t just mean Conan’s lifelong dream. He understands now that the Tonight Show he coveted and the network that put it on haven’t existed for eons. Since he wrote that brilliant “People of Earth” letter last week rejecting NBC’s plan to put him behind Leno yet again, he’s been hotter than ever. While he clearly never would have chosen to have it go down this way, this whole saga has helped him shake off the mantle of history that seemed to hold him back at 11:35. We should all be the beneficiaries of such profound kicks in the creative pants — and be so richly paid to have them. Continue reading

Signature’s goodly Wife, Long on Persuasion

Whatever scenario Doug Wright had in mind when first he interviewed Charlotte von Mahlsdorf with the aim of writing a play about her, we can safely assume it was something more conventional than his prismatic meta-biography, I Am My Own Wife.

Wright’s single actor, multi-character opus won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2004, more than a decade after Mahlsdorf first began recounting her strange (and possibly tall) tale into his tape recorder. Along the way, the playwright grappled with a Berlin Wall of writer’s block, beguiled by premise-thickening revelations about a subject he’d initially hoped to venerate as a hero. But the complexity that so confounded him turned out to be the very thing that gives his play about a cross-dressing furniture collector in fascist East Germany an unlikely universal resonance.

Director Alan Paul’s absorbing new Signature Theatre production of I Am My Own Wife is — sorry — an ideal marriage of performer and material, entrusting its 36 roles to the versatile craftsman that is Andrew Long. Biographies seem more suited to the solo-performer approach than do other kinds of stories: We are vast, we contain multitudes, etc. Continue reading