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OnStagers Present: 'Dead Man's Cell Phone'

Kali Tudisco, ’15, Staff Writer

A woman named Jean is quietly minding her own business in a cafe, but the cell phone of the man at the next table will not stop ringing. After she tries and repeatedly fails to get him to answer it, she goes over to confront him — and is shocked to discover that the man, Gordon, is dead.

Jean answers the phone for him, and soon enough she finds herself deeply entangled in the life and relationships of a person she’s never even met. Pretending to be Gordon’s co-worker, she tries to bring comfort to his grieving friends and family — which becomes more and more complicated as she begins to realize that he was actually quite a terrible person. This is the plot of Sarah Ruhl’s “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” a quirky comedy that the OnStagers Dramatic Society will be performing this weekend.

Though the plot is absurd, the play deals with some very pertinent issues, such as how the prevalence of technology in our society hinders our ability to communicate face-to-face. In a world where we can get in contact with almost anybody at almost any time, we tend to divert our attention away from those who are right in front of us. “Many of us are too afraid to tell the people we love that we love them,” explained director Kathleen Sills. “People aren’t actually connecting and saying the words that mean so much.”

The play’s plot is simple, but it is presented in a wildly unconventional manner, with events defying the laws of life, death, time and space, tied together by a small cast of eccentric characters. Despite the fact that he is dead at the start of the play, Gordon appears on stage to address the audience, and even meets Jean during her fantastical visit to the afterlife. Characters blurt out their deepest philosophical musings, yet carefully avoid discussing the actual events in their lives.

While the play is a comedy, it derives its humor from these subtle, sly idiosyncrasies as opposed to the obvious jokes one might expect. “A lot of the humor is in what the characters do and say,” said Sills. “It’s smart, witty, ironic humor.” Those who can open their minds to the peculiar concept will be rewarded with an entertaining and thought-provoking experience. “Make sure you’re not expecting anything realistic … but you can expect it to be funny and creative,” said Christina Piantigini, who plays Jean. “I think people are going to be surprised by it.”

“Dead Man’s Cell Phone” will be playing at the Rogers Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, 9 and 10, and also at 2 p.m. on Nov. 10. Tickets are $5 in advance or at the door.

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