Jean is sitting in a cafe minding her own business when she hears a cell phone that won't stop ringing. She asks the phone's owner to please answer it, but when he doesn't respond, she answers it for him. Only then does she realize that the reason he isn't answering his phone is because he's dead. So begin's Jean's journey as she feels obliged to continue to answer this man's phone and speak to his friends, family, and business associates. She meets his mistress, his wife, his mother, and his brother, and helps them grieve their loss (although none of them seems that upset) as she finds out more about this man Gordon. When she eventually discovers the shady details of his business, she's in too deep to escape unscathed.*
This play is both fantastical and grounded in reality. The fantastical parts come in the visits to the afterlife, a dead Gordon talking to the audience about the day he died, and some espionage type business dealings. And while some of the characters are over the top, there's a humanity to them, especially Jean, as they navigate grief, loss, and new beginnings. Jean's interactions with Gordon's family, while at times strange, also feel very real and connected. It's an odd little play, and that's a good thing.
|Katie Strom Rozanas as Jean (photo courtesy of Lyric Arts)
The set design is starkly simple (just two small tables and four chairs used in all the scenes), with three cell-phone shaped screens and a large grid as the only backdrops. Video and still images, or sometimes just displays of color, are displayed on the screens and set the location and mood of each scene. In a play about technology, it seems appropriate to have a tech-heavy design (scenic, lighting, and projection design by Jim Eischen). Another cool feature of the production is the original music composed by Dan Dukich, which provides a soundtrack for the story that only enhances it, never distracts from it.
In a season that began with the regional premiere of the new original musical If/Then, Lyric continues to challenge and expand their audience with Dead Man's Cell Phone, a very modern, delightfully odd comedy.
*Plot summary borrowed from what I wrote about the production at Theatre in the Round a few years ago.