- Terelle Jerricks
By John Farrell
It’s a situation everyone is familiar with.
You’re eating at a restaurant and a cell-phone rings incessantly (and usually with an offensive ring-tone.)
That’s the situation at the start of International City Theatre’s newest play, but with a twist, as it’s title reveals. The play’s title, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, gives the story away. What do you do when you confront the man at the next table next to turn off his cell phone and discover that he is dead?
That’s the problem Jean (Alina Phelan) faces. She’ sitting in a cafe, finishing a bowl of soup, when the cell phone of the man at the next table, Gordon (played byTrent Dawson) begins to ring. We learn Gordon’s name and a lot about him later. When she confronts him, she discovers he is dead and feels she must answer all his calls for him. That’s when things starts getting strange.
Phelan is remarkably likeable as Jean, but she doesn’t look the forty years old she describe herself as, and it is hard, in this post-post modern world, to imagine anyone who doesn’t have a cell phone, or, for that matter, doesn’t know how to turn it off. The play was written in 2007 and premiered in 2008, but despite its comic charm, it is already a little dated: the controversy about cell phones is long past.
Jean is a lonely woman, a pleaser, perhaps, who finds her connection to the dead Gordon more than a little problematic, especially as she invents lies to make Gordon better than he was. We see Gordon, too, as he tells us stories of his life and his afterlife. (Apparently in heaven you only have the clothes you died with, and have to stand naked in a laundromat once a week while they are cleaned.)
Dawson also plays Gordon’s brother, Dwight, in whom there is more than a family resemblance. Gordon’s life is revealed. Apparently he sold body parts to desperate people who needed them, often from executed Chinese prisoners. Jean has problems of her own which includes: a love affair with Dwight, an unforgiving relationship with Gordon’s widow, Hermia (Susan Diol) , and an even more fraught relationship with Gordon’s mother, Eileen T,Kaye. And there is also a mysterious stranger, Heather Roberts, in the mix.
Dead Man’s Cell Phone is an amusing play, but already dated, a little out-of-synch with the already evolved world. Better see it this time around, as it probably won’t survive much longer.
Tickets are $38-$45. Performances are Thursday, June 13 at 8 p.m., Friday, June 14 at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 15 at 8 p.m.,Sunday, June 16 at 2 p.m., Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through June 30.
Details: (562) 436-4610, www.InternationalCityTheatre.
Venue: International City Theatre
Location: 300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach