I Am My Own Wife -- Charlotte von Mahlsdorf was a German transvestite who managed to live through two of the 20th century's most repressive regimes -- the Nazis' and the Communists' -- sporting a simple black dress, a black headscarf and string of pearls, and orthopedic shoes. While her story, laid out in this award-winning play by Doug Wright, is undeniably engrossing, the script is strangely empty of any emotional connections that could make it resonate long after the curtain falls. It focuses on Charlotte (played by Mark Nelson, in an awesome bravura performance) and a few dozen other people in her life, including the playwright. She turns out to be a shape-shifter in many ways, rather than the uncomplicated heroine Wright envisions when he first hears about her. As the episodic script unreels, we learn that some of Charlotte's stories turn out to be lies and that she may not be an unsullied transgender pioneer in a hostile land. These revelations lend a fascinating perspective to her identity, but the structure of the play never allows the audience to fully engage this complex persona. Through November 27 at the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave., 216-795-7000. -- Howey
Menopause, the Musical -- Everybody enjoys musicals dealing with energetic young people on the brink of conquering the world. But what about the people in the audience: the nearsighted, overweight, and wrinkled denizens of middle age, who rarely see their own physiological mysteries put into song? For them, there is Menopause, the Musical, a hoot of a show written by Jeanie Linders. It's a foot-stomping 90-minute revival meeting for women who've had to deal with The Change while also trying to maintain their careers and family relationships. Menopause is frequently repetitious, even teetering on the brink of tiresome, but the energetic cast of four and spirited direction by Patty Bender and Kathryn Conte maintain the flow, so to speak. All women with a few decades on them -- even those who only use "menopause" as an excuse to get out of going to football games -- will probably get a stiff neck from nodding in agreement and a tender side from all the laughter. Playhouse Square Center's 14th Street Theatre, 2037 East 14th St., 216-241-6000. -- Howey
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.