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Dead Man's Cell Phone

By Gary Wien

originally published: 08/20/2015

Dead Man's Cell Phone

In an almost empty cafe, a woman sits, drinking coffee, and writing a thank you letter.  Next to her is a dead man. When his phone won’t stop ringing, the woman decides to answer it and take a message.  In doing so, her quiet life is turned upside-down as she’s thrust into a world of mysterious strangers, shady business deals, and the potential for true love.  This is the story of Dead Man’s Cell Phone, a play by Sarah Ruhl that will be presented by Cape May Stage this September.

The play is a tale about memory, redemption, and the connection and disconnection that takes place in our technology obsessed world.  By holding on to the dead guy’s cellphone, the woman keeps the man alive in a strange yet significant way.  She also winds up getting involved with his whole family’s life, including a romance with the dead guy’s brother.

“What I found so extraordinary about the play was that some of the lines sound like a New Yorker cartoon,” explained Roy Steinberg who is directing the production.  “They’re hilarious and, at the same time, very poignant.”

Cape May Stage’s cast includes Abby Royle as Jean, Sheffield Chastain as Gordon/Dwight (i.e. the dead guy and his remarkably similar looking brother), Jennifer Terrell (Hermia/Other Woman/Stranger), and Marlena Lustik as Mrs. Gottleib.  The ensemble includes Denzel Hawker and Iraissa Ann Reilly.  

Dead Man’s Cell Phone has been described as everything from an oddball comedy to a surreal work to a satire of modern technology.



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“That’s what I loved about it,” said Steinberg.  “It is an oddball comedy, but, at the same time, it’s so contemporary.  I have friends who tell me their boyfriends broke up with them by texting on their phones rather than doing it in person.  The play is about our life in the 21st century. It is a fascinating study of where we are and where we are going.”

The play was originally commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, who produced the New York premiere Off-Broadway in 2008.  Two years earlier, the play made its debut in Washington, D.C., with a production by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.  Since that time, cell phones have become an even more integral part of our lives.  They have the unique ability to unite people and isolate people.  The concept of phone calls even after one’s death is like a metaphor for how much the technology is ingrained with us now.   For Steinberg, the challenge is to create an atmosphere and a tone that works in unison.

“My intent is to create an atmosphere where the actors are all in the same world with a very specific style that’s stark,” explained Steinberg.  “The writer talks about Edward Hopper paintings, the light, people that are alone, and the alienation that goes on.  That’s part of what we’re working on.”

Steinberg raves about Sheffield Chastain who has the challenge of remaining still for the first act.  In movies, pretending to be dead is easy due to multiple takes.  On stage, there is only one take, so a strong level of concentration is paramount.   Chastain was recently seen in The Guardsman at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

Many of Sarah Ruhl’s plays have been critically praised and received major awards.  The list includes In the Next Room, or the vibrator play (Pulitzer Prize finalist, Tony Award nominee for Best New Play), The Clean House (Pulitzer Prize Finalist, 2005; The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, 2004); Passion Play, a cycle (Pen American award, The Fourth Freedom Forum Playwriting Award from The Kennedy Center). Her most recent plays are Stage Kiss and Dear Elizabeth.

The entire season at Cape May Stage has featured the work of female playwrights.  Previous productions include Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit Of Molly Ivins by Margeret & Alison Engle; Mary, Mary by Jean Kerr; and The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe by Jane Wagner.  Upcoming plays this season include Trying by Joanna McCllelland Glass (October 14-November 15) and A Cape May Christmas by Marlena Lustik (November 27 - January 2).





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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.


Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!










Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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