Wright's play, I Am My Own Wife opens in silence. Charlotte stares out at the audience, smiles slightly, and then disappears. The stage is empty for a short time before Charlotte reappears. She carries a large antique Edison phonograph, sets it down, admires it, and finally speaks. She proceeds to lecture the audience on the topic of the phonograph, giving a history of how it was developed and how it works.
Charlotte becomes quiet again; this time, when she speaks, she has been transformed into John Marks, the bureau chief of the Berlin office of U.S. News & World Report. John writes a letter (which is read) to Doug Wright, telling him of Charlotte. John changes into Doug, who is in Berlin with John and is talking into a tape recorder. The two men are heading toward Mahlsdorf, where Charlotte lives in East Berlin. On their way, they pass remnants of the Berlin wall, which has been torn down.
Doug morphs back into Charlotte. She holds some doll furniture in her hands and describes it. She continues to do the same with other antiques. She explains that after every disaster in Berlin, she would go through the rubble and save artifacts. Charlotte changes into Doug. He reads a letter that he has written to Charlotte. Doug is back in the United States but wants to revisit Charlotte and interview her if Charlotte will allow it. Charlotte writes back and agrees. Doug, now in East Berlin, asks John to translate for Charlotte his questions about her background. Charlotte waives the translations and begins to answer the questions directly in English.
She talks about her Tante Luise and how she encouraged Charlotte's cross-dressing. Through Tante Luise, Charlotte learned about a book that states that everyone has various proportions of male and female elements in their bodies. Some people do not fit in the normally defined classifications, being neither fully male nor fully female. Tante Luise gave Charlotte the book and told her to read it. Charlotte talks about World War II, when Berlin was heavily bombarded by Russian splatter bombs. The German S.S. officers were looking for boys to recruit. One officer asks whether Charlotte is a girl or a boy. As Lothar (Charlotte's given name), the audience hears the sixteen-year-old claim that he is a boy, but the officer decides Lothar is too young to shoot.
Charlotte says that her father was a Nazi and that he was brutal. In 1943, while Charlotte and her mother and siblings are living with Luise, Charlotte's father visits them. He has a revolver and threatens to kill his wife and children. Luise counters with a gun of her own, which she fires. The father leaves. Luise declares that it is a shame she missed. Charlotte is sent back to Berlin to help renovate the family home to accommodate war refugees. While she is there, Charlotte is confronted by her father, who insists that Charlotte choose between him and her mother. When Charlotte chooses her mother, her father locks her in her room. Charlotte escapes and finds her father sleeping, whereupon she beats him to death. She is sentenced to four years in prison. Charlotte is in prison when the Russians bomb it. The prisoners are told by the guards to run, which Charlotte does. The Allied Forces are approaching Berlin. Russian soldiers are handing out free food.
Doug begins another visit with Charlotte. He follows her down a series of steps that opens up to what looks like an old-fashioned tavern. Charlotte describes the tavern and tells Doug how she bought all the furniture and brought all the flooring and walls over to her house to save the tavern from being destroyed by the Nazis. The Berlin tavern, since the time of Emperor Wilhelm II, had been a favorite hangout for homosexuals and transvestites. Once the Berlin wall was constructed, homosexuals and transvestites in East Berlin had no place to gather. So Charlotte secretly opened the tavern, which was then in her basement, as a place of entertainment. Charlotte painted the windows black to keep the Stasi (Berlin secret police) from spying on them. Doug interjects the fact that when the Berlin wall fell, Charlotte had the only cabaret in all of East Germany, which she ran for almost thirty years.
The Cultural Minister of Berlin appears and gives Charlotte a medal for the work she has done in preserving historical pieces. Charlotte is thrilled not just for the honor but also at having the ceremony broadcast on national television, thus demonstrating to all of Germany that even a transvestite can work. Doug asks Charlotte what it was like to visit...