Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Dead Man's Cell Phone
Stage Left Productions
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's recent reviews of The Lifespan of a Fact and Misery

Melissa Selleys, Tyler Sines, and Janis Webb
Photo Courtesy of Stage Left Productions
Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone is a kooky comedy with a warm underlying layer of charm. It focuses on a woman who answers the cell phone of a dead man and gets tangled up in his life. With a good cast, who have fun playing the idiosyncratic characters, and sure-footed direction, Stage Left Productions is presenting a fun and appealing take on this 2007 play.

Jean is sitting alone in a cafe when the cell phone of the man at a table close to her rings. He doesn't answer it. At first Jean is pissed off, but she realizes that the reason he isn't picking up his phone is that he has died. After she uses his phone to call 911, she answers it when it rings again and finds that she can't stop answering it. After speaking to members of his family, as well as his mistress, Jean discovers that his name was Gordon Gottlieb and that her simple life has now taken on new meaning as she also tells those close to Gordon, who we discover didn't have the best relationships with, what she believes they want to hear, or need to hear, in order to have solace from his passing. However, when Jean learns that Gordon may not have been the man she thought he was, it challenges her perceptions and makes her question her actions.

Ruhl's comedy begins in a realistic way and soon turns into a surreal fantasy but it never loses its satirical look at life and death. It also offers an interesting view and a pointed take on how cell phones have made people less present. Ruhl's characters are quirky and her dialogue sharp. While some of the moments are a bit outlandish (if you're not into seeing a play that is very whimsical at points you've been warned), seeing the journey that Jean takes and how she connects with the other characters and learns from her adventures provides an abundance of warmth.

Cody Dull's direction is bright and his cast all do a very good job in breathing life into these comical roles and appear to be having a blast playing the slightly kooky characters. Melissa Selleys is lovely as the unassuming Jean who finds meaning in being sucked into Gordon's life but also angst when she realizes that telling people what they want to hear has its downfalls. Devin Leming is good as Gordon. His monologue that opens the second act is perfectly delivered and, even though his profession may paint Gordon as a bad person, from Leming's performance you can understand why he does the things he does. As Dwight, Gordon's brother, Tyler Sines is bright and fun, and Alexa Maez is a hoot as Gordon's wife Hermia. Janis Webb is perfect as Gordon's stoic, matter-of-fact mother who says what's on her mind even if it's hurtful, and Monique Cafe' is excellent as the mysterious Other Woman.

Dead Man's Cell Phone is a charming study of life blossoming from death, the importance to remember to tell the people you love that you love them, and how a lonely woman can find love and life simply by answering a stranger's cell phone.

Dead Man's Cell Phone runs through January 22, 2023, at Stage Left Productions, 11340 West Bell Road, Suite 105, Surprise AZ. For tickets and information, please visit call 623-285-6321.

Director/Scenic Designer: Cody Dull
Stage Manager: Wendi Taylor

Jean: Melissa Selleys
Gordon: Devin Leming
Mrs. Gottlieb: Janis Webb
Hermia: Alexa Maez
Dwight: Tyler Sines
The Other Woman/The Stranger: Monique Cafe'