Dead Man's Cell Phone

Exceptional playwrights are not easily brought to the stage. It takes exceptional direction, acting, and craft to bring alive the imaginative leaps and subtle interweavings that spring naturally from fertile minds. In Curious Theatre Company's current production of Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone, director Dee Covington takes a page from the great romantic comedies and noir films of the 40's and 50's and adapts them to the script's free-associative cell-phone cross-talk, making perfect sense of an extrasensory experience.

With mobile devices by far the fastest growing and most ubiquitous technology in history, we are being affected in ways that are not readily apparent. In her unique, empathetic way, Ruhl cuts through the wireless chatter and deluge of personal information conveyed by our cell phones and refocuses us on what matters, namely, love.

Scott Bellot as Dwight and Emily Paton Davis as Jean
Scott Bellot as Dwight and
Emily Paton Davis as Jean
in a surreal stationary store
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Jean (Emily Paton Davies) is having lunch in a metropolitan cafe, when the ring tone of a nearby cell phone interrupts her reverie over the lingering taste of her lobster bisque and the eager anticipation of writing a note on a fancy card. While initially annoyed that the cell phone's owner, Gordon (Bill Hahn) doesn't respond, Jean eventually visits new worlds as a result.

Davies' sublime comedic touch in this scene sets a light-hearted tone for the rest of the story. No matter how daunting the circumstances or subject matter, Davies' twinkling eyes or wry smile assure us that things will work out.

Bill Hahn as Gordon
Bill Hahn as Gordon
Photo: Michael Ensminger
"If only the dead could speak," becomes a wish come true when Hahn launches into one of his patented edgy monologues that both chills us and connects us, laying bare the karmic complexities of Gordon's situation. Hahn's glee in delivering Gordon's sophisticated rationalization for his work is a demonic sales pitch worthy of his namesake, Gordon Gekko.

Kathryn Gray as Mrs. Gottlieb, Emily Paton Davies as Jean, and Scott Bellot as Dwight
Kathryn Gray as Mrs. Gottlieb,
Emily Paton Davies as Jean,
and Scott Bellot as Dwight
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Jean's desire to provide Gordon's family and friends with good memories of the deceased leads to a series of adventures with Gordon's mom, Mrs. Gottleib (Kathryn Gray), Gordon's widow, Hermia (C. Kelly Leo), and Gordon's brother, Dwight (Scott Bellot).

Gray is a hoot as the Long Island maven who loves to kvetch. Between her helmet of red hair and Markas Henry's witty costumes, Gray's Mrs. Gottleib is a force of nature.

C. Kelly Leo as Hermia
C. Kelly Leo as Hermia
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Leo finds the tightly wound spring in Hermia's clock and lays bare an intensity that sets us up for one of the great comedic drunk scenes in contemporary theatre (masterfully performed by Leo), when Hermia shares her secrets with Jean.

Even Gordon's mistress, the Other Woman (a sultry, seductive Trina Magness as the femme fatale), is taken in by Jean's concocted last words for Gordon's inner circle, though her alter ego, Stranger, is not.

Trina Magness as Stranger
Trina Magness as Stranger
Photo: Michael Ensminger
After all the good karma generated by Jean, the playwright's command of classical myths and magical realism allows her to do what the Greeks couldn't do for Eurydice, come back from the dead and reunite with a lover. For Jean it is with the one member of Gordon's family she never had to fool, his brother Dwight (Scott Bellott). Bellott paints a kind-hearted yet insightful portrait that, along with Davies' delightful quirkiness, makes for a sweet chemistry found only in the best romantic comedies.

Michael Duran's scenic design, Brian Freeland's sound, and Shannon McKinney's lighting seamlessly bridge the many worlds that Ruhl conjures in her story, making interdimensional travel look as easy as falling off a log. Now that's talent!

Curious Theatre Company's production of Dead Man's Cell Phone runs through October 16th. 303-623-0524 or online at

Bob Bows


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