Fritz Coleman: It’s Me! Dad!

Afew years back, at age 47, KNBC weatherman Fritz Coleman decided it was time to create a video "time capsule" for his then 8- and 6-year-old sons to have an audiovisual introduction to their dad's life, and some clue to the paternal side of their own genetic makeup. In this stage adaptation, Coleman proves to be an engaging, gently humorous monologist who occasionally falters in his pacing and his concentration. At this point, he needs the assistance of an insightful director to help shape and focus the work into what could be a memorable theater piece. With an understated, sotto voce approach that sometimes borders on inaudible, Coleman re-creates the night in February 1995 that he set up his Hi-8 camcorder in the boys' room (they were away) and proceeded to chronicle a one-way conversation he hoped his offspring might find useful in their own lives some 15 or 20 years in the future. He reasons, "There's a lot about me you don't know ... everything."

It is a thought- and laughter-provoking journey that delves into the Coleman genealogy, his boyhood years in Williamsport, Pa., his first unsuccessful attempt at a college education, a military career that led him into broadcasting, his days as a standup comedian, marriage, divorce, alcoholism, parenting, his now 15-year stint as a TV weatherman, and his current discomfort at being a middle-aged, single man.

Though much of his narrative is truly entertaining, what’s missing is the craft of the story-teller, the ability to organize and pace his material in order to transport the audience into the world of his words. Aside from his often too-soft voice and meandering presentation, Coleman’s movements are sometimes noticeably arbitrary and distracting. Also, his onstage ethic of always addressing himself to the downstage-mounted camcorder proves to be a limiting factor in his performance.

On the plus side, Coleman is remarkably gifted in his ability to analyze his heritage and his life. Particularly rewarding is his reminiscences of his father, a hard-working, chain-smoking, alcoholic salesman who could only relate to his son over a garden hoe.

Some of Coleman’s funniest material centers on why, at his age, “dating doesn’t work for me.” He proceeds to analyze, to hilarious effect, why it is impossible to date younger women, older women and women his own age.

In a poignant summing up, he expresses his regrets and concerns that his boys will never know the safer world he enjoyed as a child and, as he has managed to forgive his own father, he hopes his sons will forgive him for not being totally the father he could have been.

The children’s room setting of Molly Joseph proves to be a bit too inhibiting for Coleman’s movements. The softly swinging piano styling of Billy Rebel creates a pleasant pre-show atmosphere for the performance.

Fritz Coleman: It's Me! Dad!

Actor's Forum Theatre; 65 seats; $10 top; Opened July 2, 1997

Production: Actor's Forum Theatre presents a monologue in one act written and performed by Fritz Coleman. Set, Molly Joseph; pianist, Billy Rebel. Opened July 2, 1997; reviewed Aug. 20; runs indefinitely. Running time: 1 hour, 30 min.

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