note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
Everyone hates the intrusion of a cell phone, especially at the theater or in a restaurant---so why would anyone answer a stranger’s cell? Playwright Sarah Ruhl addresses that question (and other metaphysical queries) in her bizarre comedy of modern manners, DEAD MAN’S CELL PHONE (playing at the Lyric Stage Company through Nov.14th).
A young woman in a café picks up a ringing cell phone at the table next to hers. It just so happens that the phone’s owner has had a heart attack and is dead as a doornail but that, curiously, isn’t her priority. The phone is. It’s not exactly the kindness of strangers. Ruhl is more interested in the strangeness of humankind.
Imagine the improbable protagonist of WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (who claims a relationship with an incapacitated stranger) morphing into the karate chopping heroine of KILL BILL…then add WINGS OF DESIRE so she can commune with the afterlife. Ruhl does just that, sending an unassuming wall flower (Liz Hayes) on a journey from alienation to mass communication…and romance.
Ruhl’s odd, little script gets a nifty production at the Lyric, with Carmel O’Reilly at the helm to keep it light and jaunty. Hayes is amusingly passive as a latter day Alice tumbling through the looking glass. Beth Gotha is wonderfully nasty as the mother of the deceased and Neil McGarry is looking awfully good for a dead guy. (Don’t ask how he comes back.) Bryn Jameson is hilarious in a drunken, revelatory stupor. Jeff Mahoney gets terrific laughs as a papyrus-phile and Jessica Turner is killer as the femme fatale.