By Matty Selman.
Directed by Elizabeth Margolius.
Featuring Gene Weygandt.
Produced by Solo Celebration.
At the Greenhouse Theatre, Chicago.
Moving one person show about the immigrant experience of a Jewish family to America.
Gene Weygandt is a world class actor who honestly plays several members of a family in a funny and poignant solo drama that depicts how we inherit out family history warts and all in Uncle Philip’s Coat. We meet Matty (playwright Matty Selman’s alter ego) as he struggles with what to do with uncle Philip’s coat upon Philip’s death. Philip’s coat was a personal treasure, a family heirloom and a heap of rags – depending on one’s perspective. Matty treasures what the coat symbolizes in that Matty sees uncle Philip each time he looks at the ragged coat. As he remembers uncle Philip, Matty travels across time to the shtetl in the Ukraine where his father and uncle (Philip), as small children, survived a pogrom and eventually landed in New York City.
Gene Weygandt mixes humor with Jewish irony and loads of Yiddish to tell his family’s history through his unfaltering dreamer uncle’s story. This journey of self-discovery contains a rich depiction of the myths and beliefs from a survivor steeped in Russian Jewish traditions. The immigrant experience in America finds Matty’s father working in jewelry while uncle Philip lives as a homeless wanderer who sells things from his long black coat.
This 75 minute solo one-act is a vibrant and haunting work that is truthful and a totally engrossing family drama.It suggests that as unique as the Jewish immigration experience was, the universal hopes and dreams were shared by most of the groups that braved adversity to come to America. It also depicts that the new arrivals did bring their foibles as well as their culture to America.
Gene Weygandt is terrific as Matty. He has a fine blend of humor, honesty and sense of irony as he switches form one character to another deftly. This is wonderful storytelling. Holding your audience for 75 minutes and catapulting them into emotionally poignant experiences is no easy task but Weygandt’s acting skills deliver a powerful show.
Date Reviewed: December 2, 2016.
For more info checkout the Uncle Philip’s Coat page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL, call 773 – 404-7336, www.greenhousetheatre.org, tickets $34 – $48, Wednesday thru Saturday at 8 pm, Saturday matinees at 2:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, running time is 75 minutes without intermission, through December 31, 2016.