July 21, 2008

Dead Man's Cell Phone




Last Sunday, 7/13, I went to the matinee of Sarah Ruhl's play Dead Man's Cell Phone at the Steppenwolf with my friend Abbi. We were both intrigued by the premise of the play.

Jean, an ordinary meek woman who's sleepwalking through her life answers a person's cell phone at a cafe after she couldn't stand the incessant ringing. Little did she know that the man who owned the cell phone was dead. As she answers questions about the man's last moments.......well.......actually, Jean fabricates lies about his last moments and about his feelings towards his family in order to console them........Jean ensnares herself into their lives. This throws her into a series of adventure with the man's wife, his mother, his mistress and his brother.

Given the dark premise of someone dying, this play is actually a comedy.......more on the whimsy side. Today cell phones have been a constant companion for us. It has all our contacts and keeps us connected to the world. Didn't you ever feel that you're missing something when you don't have your cell phone with you? Well, it comes with no irony that this play is about finding connections. Jean finally jumps starts her life through this dead man's family and discovers how animated it could be.

I did like the play but somehow it lost me in the second act when Jean travels to the afterlife and back. I don't know, for me it was just too out there and it lost it's hold on me......there was a kind of a "Huh?? Where did that come from feeling" that I got. I thought it was only me but my friend Abbi felt the same. Also the actress playing Jean I wasn't too enamored with. The first 10 minutes of the play I already said to Abbi "Oh I don't like her". I'm not quite sure if it was the character, the direction or the acting choices that she made but she just irritated me. I must say that the supporting characters were great! Marc Grapey who played Gordon (the dead man) was hauntingly great specially in his monologue at the top of Act 2. Marilyn Dodds, who played Mrs. Gottleib was acerbically funny as the dead man's mother.

I missed out seeing this play in March when I was in NYC. It was playing it's world premiere at Playwright's Horizon and I tried to get a ticket but the show was sold out. Rightfully so because Jean was played by Mary-Louise Parker who I heard was wonderfully beguiling in the role.

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