“Dead Man’s Cell Phone” – Actors Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ February 27, 2012


Actors Theatre, Stage West, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Actors Theatre’s “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” poses an interesting question.  A woman, Jean, sitting in a café minding her own business hears a cell phone ring at another table.  The man, Gordon, sitting at the table doesn’t answer it and it finally stops only to start ringing again and again.  Now the question.  Should she answer the phone and invade another person’s private life?  She goes to Gordon and asks why he isn’t answering it and discovers he’s dead.  She keeps Gordon’s cell phone and meets his family as she enters a new life and develops love for Dwight, the dead man’s brother.

The situation reminds us how much about our personal lives is revealed in what we think are private situations and asks what responsibilities we assume if we enter another’s life in such a way?  Playwright Sarah Ruhl’s wacky approach creates a funny experience and the production’s excellent four-person ensemble brings off the play’s comic merriment with hilarious frivolity.  You’ll think about how upfront and out there our lives are while you laugh at hilarious one-liners.  The bizarre situations result in enjoyable malarkey.

The play raises another issue.  How will we be remembered after we die?  Is our life such a bizarre mishmash of confusion that those left will wonder how we dealt with it all?

Ruhl delivers important and pithy messages under a veil of hilarity.  You may miss the ramifications and implications while laughing but her plays leave audiences thinking.  Ruhl loves to jump on unique situations caused by our increasingly complex lives that leave us more venerable to others.

Matthew Wiener’s fast paced staging keeps Ruhl’s play zinging along with rapid fire hilarity and his cast knows just how to play the silliness so it amuses without looking inane.  Meghan Malloy, in her local acting debut, is a resourceful Jean.  The dead man’s mother, Mrs. Gottlieb, is played with comic flurry by Patti Davis Suarez as she milks every hilarious nuance out of this biased, bigoted, and opinionated person.  Sally Jo Bannow uses her rich comic style to portray the dead man’s wife and two other women, while Joseph Kremer has a field day playing Gordon and his quickly adapting brother.

“Dead Man’s Cell Phone” is a devilishly funny look at the complexities of our lives and the openness that we must preserve so we have a bit of mystery plus some privacy.  It continues through March 11.  For tickets, call the Herberger Theater Center box office at 602-252-8497 or order tickets online at www.actorstheatrephx.org.

Grade: B