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Silver Spring Stage Dead Man’s Cell Phone

By • Jan 16th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Dead Man’s Cell Phone
Silver Spring Stage
Woodmoor Shopping Center, Silver Spring, MD
Through February 4th
2:00 with one intermission
$20/$18 Seniors and Juniors
Reviewed January 13th, 2012

In the twenty-first century, our lives have become almost completely dominated by technology. With the advent of Facebook, iPhones, and something called the “blogosphere” (which I still don’t fully understand), we’ve entered into a world in which deeply personal messages are sent with our thumbs and our innermost thoughts are communicated in 140 characters or fewer. The paradox inherent in all of this technology is that while it is meant to bring us closer together, we can’t help but feel isolated and a bit disconnected from one another. This paradox is the central theme of Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone, an absurdist commentary on the role cell phones play in our everyday lives. Silver Spring Stage delivers an entertaining production of this thought-provoking play.

The play centers on Jean, a quirky and lovable twentysomething who discovers a dead body at a café when his cell phone rings incessantly. Rather than go running for help, she appoints herself the man’s personal messaging service and becomes embroiled in the man’s rocky personal life and shady business dealings. Jean interacts with the deceased’s estranged family, spinning a web of lies that inexorably leads her to a deeper understanding of her own life through a series of events that give the play a feeling reminiscent of a darker While You Were Sleeping. Despite certain plot points that made it difficult to take the characters seriously and the fact that Ms. Ruhl unfortunately tended to beat the audience over the head with her message, it was a fun and unusual evening of theatre with some great laughs.

One of my biggest theatrical pet peeves is a lack of vision in a show’s direction – a blunder to which this play thankfully did not fall victim. While I was not the biggest fan of the script, I really do have to hand it to director Jacy D’Aiutolo for making otherwise incredulous moments seem at least somewhat grounded in reality. Set designer Ken Ambrose and his design team have crafted a set all in silver that functions quite well as a bleak, mechanical backdrop for the play’s many locales, both realistic and metaphysical.

With a pitch-perfect nerdy adorability, Alyssa Sanders is delightful as Jean. Even the moments in which the character is written to be a little too cutesy and whimsical for my tastes were enjoyable because of Ms. Sanders. Andrew Greenleaf is also a standout as Gordon, the title character who speaks to us from beyond the grave. His combination of poise and pathos really helps to fully flesh out an otherwise one-dimensional character.

The rest of the cast rounds out nicely with adept performances from everyone, but the highlight of the evening for me was Sarah Holt as Mrs. Gottlieb, the deceased’s long-suffering mother. Her snooty, vapid demeanor and deadpan delivery made her a captivating scene-stealer (and what a voice!).

Mr. D’Aiutolo uses four dancers to manage the scene changes – a choice that I’m not certain was right for this production. I don’t know precisely for what the script called, but their apparent control over the actors and their interjection into the action for random dance numbers seemed contrived and unnecessary. While it didn’t work for me personally, I’m sure that it fit with Mr. D’Aiutolo’s vision for the show. As stated before, I’d rather a director have a vision with which I disagree than have no direction at all so kudos to Mr. D’Aiutolo for taking a risk.

With moments of adult language and themes, this is not a show for the little ones. Whether you find it brilliant or cheesy, Silver Spring Stage’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone is a well-directed and well-performed production of (in my opinion) a so-so show that, despite its theatrical shortcomings, both entertains and asks questions.

Cast

  • Jean: Alyssa Sanders
  • Gordon: Andrew Greenleaf
  • Mrs. Gottlieb: Sarah Holt
  • Hermia: Erin Gallalee
  • Dwight: Scott Sherven
  • The Other Woman / The Stranger: Ana Maria Mutchler
  • Dancers: Lizzie Albert, Amanda Shafer Berman, Maya Davis, Heather Dixon

Production Staff

  • Producer: Pam Burks
  • Director: Jacy D’Aiutolo
  • Stage Manager: Pam Burks
  • Set Designer: Ken Ambrose
  • Master Carpenter: Ken Ambrose
  • Construction & Painting Assistants: Jennifer Ambrose, Martin Buffano, Dave Burks, Peter Caress, Andy Greenleaf, Ken Lee, Whitney Moore, Toshio Nagasaka, Alyssa Sanders
  • Properties & Set Dressing: Pam Burks
  • Lighting Designer: Peter Caress
  • Sound Designer: Jamie Coupar
  • Choreographer: Allison Otto
  • Combat Choreographer: Lena Winter
  • Light Board Operators: Dave Burks, Peter Caress, Bob Scott
  • Sounds Board Operator: Pam Burks
  • Costume Designer: Crystal Fergusson
  • Make-up & Hair Design: Crystal Fergusson
  • Cell Phone Ballet voices: Cory Atwood, Pam Burks, Mattie Cohan, Tommy Coupar, Jacy D’Aiutolo, Brandon Derwyn, Cara Duckworth, Mike Galizia, Seth Ghitelman, AJ Johnson, Natalie McManus, Melinda Miller, Whitney Moore, Sam Rabinovitz, Kristen Skolnik, Andy Spatz, Bill Strein, Gary Sullivan, Lena Winter

Disclaimer: Silver Spring Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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, a native of Frederick, MD, has been heavily involved in every single facet of theatre for the majority of his life. He has been seen on stages in Frederick, Charles Town, WV, Kensington, MD, Greenbelt, MD, Gettysburg, PA, and many others. A two-time WATCH Award nominee, Eric has over 80 shows to his credit and is a double-graduate of Frederick County's Arts and Communications Academy in music and theatre. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from the University of Maryland and currently lives in Frederick.

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