Curtain Call: Dead Man's Cell Phone
What: Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone (live theater)
When: 2011-02-11 - 2011-02-20
"A ringing phone has to be answered"-- Kiefer Sutherland, Phone Booth.
The second decade of the twenty-first century is a high-tech communication age, with more than half of all Americans owning cellular phones. Many millions use communication tools like texting, Facebook, and instant-messaging. It's a world that was unknown just fifty years ago, when there was only one phone company, long-distance calls were a novelty, and letters sometimes took days or weeks to reach their destinations. Now, communication is instantaneous, often at the press of one button, or the sound of a voice command that says "dial."
But is that a good thing? Is it possible that, even in this new world of instant and simple communication, mixups can occur, often with hilarious and shocking results?
The Jackson County Stage company says yes, and invites audiences to take a look at the dark side of the convenience of modern communication with Dead Man's Cell Phone. The play, written by Pulitzer Prize finalist, Tony nominee, and Illinois native Sarah Ruhl, will take place February 11 through February 13 and February 18 through February 20 at the Varsity Center for the Arts.
Jim Lambert will direct this production of Ruhl's humorous, biting social commentary about the downside of electronic communication. Lambert refers to Dead Man's Cell Phone in his directorial notes as "a very funny take on today's personal communication saturation."
"This is a dark comedy," Lambert tells Nightlife. "It's also a social commentary about the way people talk in public on the phone. I had seen this show and thought it was hilarious, and it made such a good commentary on cell phones and about butting into other people's business. My wife once stood in line at Kroger, and heard a young woman interviewing for a job over a cell phone right there at the checkout line. You might be at a restaurant and see a couple, both of them on a cell phone to other people-- I've seen that several times. As far as straight communication, cell phones make everything easier, but they isolate us. I know people who text message all the time. They'll be sitting in a room text messaging someone and have no idea who is in the room with them. Some people do nothing all day but sit and Facebook, and they can do it from their phones now. That's one of the downsides of it-- they isolate us."
Dead Man's Cell Phone begins like so many other stories, with an everyday woman in an everyday café . Jean, portrayed by Carbondale's Sarah Dubach, is calmly enjoying a quiet moment to herself when her tranquility is brutally interrupted by the constant ringing of a cell phone from a table across from her. The phone belongs to Gordon Gottlieb, played by Dan Hill of Carbondale, who appears to be napping and is unresponsive to the constant ringing. Finally driven to distraction by the relentless ringing, Jean walks over, picks up Gordon's phone, and takes a message, identifying herself as the man's social secretary.
After hanging up, the young woman discovers, to her horror, that Gordon is not just sleeping, but sleeping with the fishes. That discovery is punctuated by the ringing of the phone, whereupon the startled Jean takes yet another message for Gordon. Then another call comes in, then another, from a wide assortment of mysterious characters, all demanding to know if Jean is an "incoming" or "outgoing."
By this time, Jean's horror at having discovered a corpse is matched only by her curiosity as to the kind of business in which this dead man is engaged. Her curiosity eventually leads her into conversation after conversation with friends and business associates of the mysterious Gordon, until she realizes, to her shock and terror, just what kind of business this dead man was operating.
The hilarity continues as Jean chooses to keep Gordon's cell phone and take even more messages, leading to meetings with his widow, Hermia, played by Darcy Kriegsman, and his mother, portrayed by twenty-year Stage Company veteran Cathy Field. Then Jean attends Gordon's funeral, which leads to an unexpected romance with Gordon's brother, Dwight, played by Murphysboro's Jared Shofstall. In the meantime, there is danger and intrigue as Jean finds herself followed by a mysterious woman, played by Susan Harrocks, whose main purpose is to separate Jean from Gordon's cell phone and protect the secret that she and Gordon have been hiding.
Dead Man's Cell Phone will make audiences laugh, but it will also make them think, and just quite possibly choose to leave those electronic leashes at home every once in awhile.
Tickets to Dead Man's Cell Phone are $15 for adults and $10 for students with valid identification. Evening performances take place at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. After each performance, audiences may stay to discuss the play and its themes.
For tickets and more information, call the box office at (618) 549-5466 Mondays through Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. or one hour before each performance. The Stage Company also accepts twenty-four-hour ticket reservations at (800) 838-3006 and online at <http://www.StageCompany.org>.
who: Jackson County Stage Company
what: Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone (live theater)
where: Varsity Center for the Arts
when: February 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, and 20