Greenhouse Theater Solo Celebration
Led by new Artistic Director Jacob Harvey, Greenhouse Theater Center’s “Solo Celebration” festival is the company’s first step towards becoming a producing entity in Chicago. The festival features 12 solo plays – including ten full-length productions, two limited engagements, as well as other special events running from June 2016 through February 2017. This past weekend, the latest installment, Uncle Philip’s Coat, has been added to the list of new pieces to take one of four stages at the Greenhouse.
Uncle Philip’s Coat is Symbol
Written by Matty Selman and Directed by Elizabeth Margolius, Uncle Philip’s Coat follows Matty, a young actor (Gene Weygandt) who has inherited his uncle’s old coat. The story begins humorously, with Matty describing all the faults of the coat, from the tattered holes to the overwhelming stench. His uncle wore the coat from an early age, and the age has left its mark. However, over the course of the play, Matty begins to realize that the coat is worth much more, and acts as a symbol of his family history across generations. The story-arc is heartwarming, and Selman accurately captures the conflicting emotions we can face towards our pasts. Matty (the character) begins with an intense desire to sell the coat, and though he fails, he realizes by the end that inheriting the coat is not a punishment, but a blessing.
Challenging Role for Selman
Selman presents a challenge in that the actor of this one-man show must portray three characters – Matty, his father, and his Uncle Philip. Weygandt rises to the challenge with grace, and showcases a lovely sense of comedic timing that highlighted the humorous moments of the piece. For example, towards the beginning of the piece, Matty attempts to donate the coat as an artifact to the Ellis Island Museum. Weygandt emphasizes every painful detail, particularly the stench and reaction of the employee who considers the coat for their collection. Weygandt carried the audience wonderfully through the monologue, and kept them laughing throughout.
While Uncle Philip’s Coat has its funny moments, much also rests on the opposite end of the spectrum, and Weygandt tackled the dramatic points with a similar ease. As we learn more of Matty’s family’s past under persecution in Eastern Europe, we begin to understand that the coat represents his uncle’s strength and survival, and Weygandt portrayed the realization with a lovely sense of honesty.
Heartbreaking and thought provoking, Uncle Philip’s Coat acts as an important play for this time of year. While it is important to spend the holidays celebrating with family, it can be equally as necessary to reflect on our past.
Now through December 31, 2016
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 8 pm
Saturdays at 2:30 pm & 8 pm
Sundays at 2:30 pm.
There will not be an 8 pm performance on Saturday, December 24 (Christmas Eve) or Saturday, December 31 (New Year’s Eve); there will not be a 2:30 pm performance on Sunday, December 25 (Christmas Day).
Greenhouse Theater Center
2257 N Lincoln Avenue
Single tickets: $34 - $48. Festival Flex Passes: three plays for $99
For tickets and show information, visit http://www.greenhousetheater.org/
Photos: Evan Hanover
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.