Dead Man’s Cell Phone, as the title promises, follows a woman who decides to answer the cell phone of a stranger who she discovers deceased at a local cafe. Using an exaggerated and sometimes bizarre storytelling style, the play points out that we may not be able to transfer all of our relationships to a mobile, portable, digital format without consequence.
Sarah Ruhl’s Incohesive Play a Curious Choice
HE SAID: Fresh off her Broadway debut and Tony nominations for In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), Sarah Ruhl is a hot name right now. I have been a fan for years, having read a number of her pieces, but I have some trouble with this one. While it demonstrates clearly that people are happiest when we drop our fantasies/lies and actually connect with people, the story conveys this lesson through melodramatic characters with whom, through their absurdity, it is hard to connect.
SHE SAID: I agree that the writing makes the play somewhat alienating. It’s written in a largely realistic fashion, with occasional drops into the absurd. I found these departures to be just sparse and sudden enough that they tore me from the story that was happening, while some of the stretches of story went so long uninterrupted that I was waiting for something more interesting to happen.
Dead Man Steals Show From Strong Ensemble
HE SAID:What was a bit disappointing was how the style of writing affected a talented cast of actors. Don’t get me wrong – the cast did a commendable job handling the fanciful characters, but I had trouble connecting to them through the satire of the piece. William Hahn seemed to be the only one immune to this issue. His turn as the deceased owner of the titular cell phone, Gordon, was engaging, funny, and perfectly walked the line between reality and melodrama.
SHE SAID: There were definitely performances that I enjoyed as well. Emily Patton Davies was generally adorable as the optimistic, principled Jean. As engaging as her performance was, she was onstage so often that she was the frequent victim of some of the dead spots in the writing (pun intended). Kathryn Gray provided much of the comic relief as the grieving mother of the deceased, and Trina Magness was sultry and exotic in both of her archetypal roles.
Curious Theatre Company Designs and Directs to Start a Conversation
HE SAID: Curious Theatre was founded by a group of designers and those roots are evident in this show. Clearly inspired by the central device, the rising spires all around the stage emulated the reception bars on cell phone, while also providing doorways, windows, and perhaps a city skyline. The lighting was also stimulating. The only disjointed element was the scene change music that was reminiscent of film noir, which worked for a couple of key scenes but didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the play.
SHE SAID: I also found the design elements to be interesting, and even though I wasn’t sure what everything symbolized, it got me wondering about the intention of the playwright and the designers. Luckily, Curious does a talk-back after every show! Another audience member said she loved seeing shows at Curious because they were always thought-provoking, and it’s admirable that the Curious company offers to give that conversation a boost before patrons even leave the theatre.
Dead Man’s Cell Phone Thought-Provoking But Disconnected
THEY SAID: Ultimately, this show is not an indictment of modern technology, but rather examines how we tend to live in our own day-to-day lies. Curious Theatre’s production was boosted by a strong ensemble and terrific design concepts, but still felt distant due to some quirky melodrama. Perhaps the play is meant to alienate the audience and encourage them to compare their own lives to the theatrics? We are not sure, but we’re glad we got the opportunity to ask the question! We encourage you to see the show and start your own conversation about it.
For more info on the play and Sarah Ruhl, check out this Wikipedia page. Curious Theatre’s production runs until October 16th. For TICKETS AND INFO click the banner below.