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Mixed signals and muddled connections untangled in play

The Other Woman/Stranger, played by Amber Nightingale, sophomore of Chadron, pauses amidst the application of her lipstick during a dress rehearsal of 'Dead Man’s Cell Phone' by playwright Sarah Ruhl. — Photo by T.J. Thomson

The Other Woman/Stranger, played by Amber Nightingale, sophomore of Chadron, pauses amidst the application of her lipstick during a dress rehearsal of 'Dead Man’s Cell Phone' by playwright Sarah Ruhl. — Photo by T.J. Thomson

Shannon Smay, as Dwight, and Amanda Pintore, as Jean
John T. Bryan, III as Gordon
Pam Jungck-Wright as Mrs. Gottlieb

“Dead Man’s Cell Phone” explores both the tangible and the metaphysical as it travels down the labyrinthine paths left in the wake of a person’s death.

The play opens in a quiet café. Jean’s solitude at a small table is interrupted when a man, Gordon, will not answer his cell phone. Growing more frustrated by the minute, Jean eventually approaches him, only to discover that he is, in fact, dead.

After calling emergency responders, she inadvertently “inherits” his phone and assumes responsibility for his incoming calls.

Through this, she meets his mistress. “The Other Woman,” who remains unnamed throughout the play, is brazen and egocentric. Despite their polar opposite personalities, Jean feels compelled to offer her comfort.

This pattern continues as Jean encounters Gordon’s mother, brother, and wife.

Gordon’s mother, Mrs. Gottlieb, is a melodramatic alcoholic, who lavished attention on her older son Gordon, while virtually ignoring her meeker son, Dwight.

Hermia, Gordon’s widow, does not appear to be too affected by the passing of her husband.

While slightly intoxicated one night, she confides to Jean that their marriage was a loveless one, and that she regrets not working on their relationship when she had a chance.

Jean bonds immediately with Dwight while having dinner with the whole family. The two quickly form a romantic connection, though their match is not without its share of troubles.

While consoling Gordon’s loved ones, Jean finds herself glossing over the fact that she met Gordon only after his death, saying instead that she knew him from work. However, this proves to be a somewhat sticky fib, as there is a sinister ambiguity shrouding Gordon’s occupation.

Some themes touched upon include mortality, deception, kindness, the afterlife, technology, loyalty, and responsibility.

“This story acts in many ways as social satire of our dependencies on technology. . . with material that is darkly-comic, human, and inhuman all at the same time,” said Colton Neidhardt, senior of Crawford, student director of the production.

“Dead Man’s Cell Phone” plays at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday in Memorial Hall’s Black Box Theatre.


  • Herman Olathe

    Excellant coverage! The picture of “The Other Woman” is very interesting and the portrait of “Mrs. Gottleib” looks so professional! Very nice work.

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