BWW Reviews: DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE Gives Life to New Theatre Company
This past Friday night, Chicago welcomed a new company to its theatrical landscape: The Enthusiasts Theatre Company opened their inaugural season with Sarah Ruhl's "Dead Man's Cell Phone," which follows a woman who, after discovering the stranger at a neighboring table in a café has died at his seat, takes it upon herself to be the caretaker of his left behind cell phone.
Opening night was, unfortunately, marred by a good amount of technical issues, although I'm sure these will be smoothed out as the run continues. The simple sets by Paige Reilly work fine (mostly consisting of tables and chairs), although having a scrim cut the playing space in half does a disservice to the actors. The sound design, all important in this show that relies heavily on the ringing of that aforementioned cell phone, was well done by Andrew Sours.
Perhaps the biggest strength of the production is the choice of script itself. Chicago-bred Ruhl's plays are often seen on Chicago stages, although it takes a very skilled director to accurately tap into her magical realism style. Director Toma Tavares Langston does well in understanding the sincerity (yet hilarity) within Ruhl's characters accordingly (Shelley Nixon, as the Dead Man's Widow, Hermia, shines among the cast in her second act scene where she drunkenly mourns her husband). However, Langston and the cast seem to get veered a little off-path toward the end of the show when many of the more absurd moments are reduced to slapstick, farcical bits that feel out of place and hide the underlying sweetness and profoundness of the events.
A good first effort for this new theatre company, "Dead Man's Cell Phone" offers plenty of laughs throughout the night and, while The Enthusiasts didn't fully explore all the script has to offer, Ruhl's plays are always worth seeing.
Photo Credit: © Victor E. Bvzeta 2014