Pittsburgh Playwrights dissects Dr. Cyril Wecht

By Bob Hoover

Old cases never die as long as Dr. Cyril Wecht is around. The former Allegheny County coroner, now 90, has been commenting on a variety of controversial killings for years, beginning with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s.

Mark Clayton Southers

Cyril” by Mark Clayton Southers dramatizes the man and his work. The film, running just over two hours, will debut Saturday, July 24, in two showings at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

It’s a production of Southers’ Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co. It features Wecht and actors David Whalen, Sam Lothard, Susie McGregor-Laine, Jenny Malarkey, and Cherrita Southers. Andrew Paul directed.

“Dr. Wecht and I started to have lunch regularly about two years ago,” said Southers. “I kept notes on our conversations and wrote it out into a play.”

Dr. Cyril Wecht

The framework is a staged interview between Wecht, played by himself, and a TV crew. Whalen as the interviewer and Lothard as the cameraman film Wecht as he discusses three fatal cases for a fictional TV show. They are: John F. Kennedy, Jon Benet Ramsey, and Nicole Simpson.

“He talks about a few other cases, but only briefly,” Southers said. “The play is really about the interaction between the TV crew and Wecht.” Political differences between the interviewer and the cameraman add tension to the play, he said.

If it’s an autopsy you want, “Cyril” provides a restaging of the Ramsey one using a realistic (and expensive) dummy. Wecht still conducts about 300 autopsies a year, Southers said.

Shot over ten days, the play begins the day after the killing of George Floyd, which is re-enacted.
“Cyril” is the third PPT filmed production in the pandemic restricted season. “Ubuntu Holiday” and “Grist From the Mill 1902” preceded the Wecht play. Southers said he plans to enter “Cyril” in several upcoming film festivals.

Admission to the viewings on Saturday, July 24th, at the Heinz History Center are free. To attend, register at www.pghplaywrights.org.

Categories: Show Previews

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