On Saturday, the Ramapo College Theater Program put on their rendition of Sarah Ruhl’s contemporary play “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.” The quaint Adler Theater was abuzz prior to the performance, hosting a near sell-out crowd.
The set was intimate, consisting of only four chairs and two tables that were interchanged at various points signifying a new place; a screen behind the set acted as a backdrop, as well as a title card stating the new scene in pleasant cursive.
The plot raises poignant questions about life, love, death and the afterlife, all channeled through the device our society clings to dearly, the cell phone. Jean (Kelly Blake) is the hopeless romantic type. When she discovers that a man in the cafÃ© across from her unexpectedly dies, she vows to honor the memory of the stranger by answering his calls, taking on a bizarre but noble deed.
“Working on DMCP has been such a huge learning experience for me; Maria taught me so much about how to pick up on cues from my fellow actors and access a truthfulness in myself that I can carry into future productions,” stated Kelly Blake on her performance as Jean.
A touch of whimsy infuses itself into a modern day story with an extraordinary starting point and an interesting lead character. Jean finds herself trying to preserve a positive legacy of the dead man, Gordon Gottlieb (Dan Kropa) to his family, even though he was entrenched in an underground organ trading business. Humor arises through the awkwardly charming advances of the brother of the deceased, Dwight (Nick Walsh). A blossoming romance ensues with sweet dialogues of stationary (appropriate for the story), love and an afterlife together.
A riveting monologue by Gordon pieces together the last moments of his life as he sat alone in an anywhere cafÃ©, wishing he was eating lobster bisque and searching for meaning in a life wrought with selfishness, greed and wrongdoing, all while fighting off cardiac arrest.
Ruhl suggests that when we die, we are left with the person whom we loved the most in the place we first told them we loved them; an interesting notion. Quietly enchanting and understated marks the tale of a woman who does the unfinished work of a lowly man, for no other reason than love and love itself.
“I never had a cell phone,” Jean says dreamily. “I didn’t want to be there, you know. Like if your phone is on, you’re supposed to be there. Sometimes I like to disappear. But it’s like when everyone has their cell phones on, no one is there. It’s like we’re all disappearing the more we’re there.”