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A Few Comments on DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE (No Spoilers)

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ray-andallthatjazz86
Broadway Legend
joined:8/2/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
8/2/05
Just got back from the first preview of DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE, just figured I'd write a few thoughts if anyone's interested about seeing this production.
I have to preface this by saying that this is my first Sarah Ruhl play so I'm not sure if this is her style or trend. Having said that, this is one of the oddest plays I have seen. The play revolves around Jean (Mary-Louise Parker), a very very odd and lonely woman who develops an obsession for a dead man, his cell phone, and his life. She meets a series of people involved in his life, ranging from his mother (played by Kathleen Chalfant) to his brother (David Aaron Baker).
I have very mixed feelings about the play. At times it is incredibly hilarious (mostly due to the actors' genius deliveries), deeply romantic in a weird way, and it eventually does raise some interesting points about the need to connect, the ways we find to connect with others, and certainly about the privileges that come with dying. However, at moments the play just dragged (particularly the scenes involving Jean and the brother), and at the end I just felt it got too much out of control for my taste. Don't know how to explain it, and again it may be the playwright's style, but I felt like she pushed it too hard and what started as an excellent work of the absurd just became slightly annoying. I did think Act II was much better than Act I.
The cast, however, is as top-notch as it sounds on paper.
Kudos to Carla Harting and Kelly Maurer whose great comic timing and line deliveries made some of their scenes better than the text itself. Maurer in particular has a scene in Act II that was fascinating to watch, and Mary-Louise Parker and her seemed to be having quite a blast up there (I'm not saying what roles Hartin and Maurer play on purpose not to provide spoilers).
Bill Camp is pretty good in the title role, but again don't want to give any spoilers, but you do get to hear a bit from him.
Chalfant was pure genius as usual, even if I didn't enjoy what the playwright did with her role at the end. I had been wanting to see Chalfant live since I knew she played Hannah in ANGELS IN AMERICA, she did not disappoint, what a great actress. A cell phone actually rang during her first scene and she made sure to confront the audience, it did get me a bit out of the frame of the play but I applaud her for saying what she did.
Of course the play belongs to Mary-Louise Parker, who has to be one of the great actresses of her generation. What a glorious performance. I didn't really care for the role itself but Parker gives a hilarious, touching, out there performance and it pays off. I'm glad I finally got to see her up on stage, she had the audience eating at the palm of her hand.
David Aaron Baker was the only weak link for me, he wasn't bad but he wasn't great either. Maybe it's more from the way the role itself was written, I don't know.
Overall, I feel it is a so-so play that is worth watching for the excellent cast.
"Some people can thrive and bloom living life in a living room, that's perfect for some people of one hundred and five. But I at least gotta try, when I think of all the sights that I gotta see, all the places I gotta play, all the things that I gotta be at"
Yankeefan007
Broadway Legend
joined:3/20/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
3/20/04
Ruhl is definitely a hit-or-miss playwright. That doesn't mean she's good or bad, her work is just an acquired taste. THE CLEAN HOUSE was a perfect example of a realistic play until John Dossett dragged an evergreen tree on stage. In "eurydice," the water flowed up.
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Wanna Be A Foster
Broadway Legend
joined:1/9/05
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The first two times I saw Mary-Louise Parker on stage, it was on Broadway, and I paid less for both combined than it would cost me to see her in this Off-Broadway play once, just because now she is on a TV show and middle Americans have woken up and noticed that she exists.

I'm sure she is fantastic, but I'm glad to hear I won't be missing much by not agreeing to pay full price for this.
"Winning a Tony this year is like winning Best Attendance in third grade: no one will care but the winner and their mom."
-Kad

"I have also met him in person, and I find him to be quite funny actually. Arrogant and often misinformed, but still funny."
-bjh2114 (on Michael Riedel)
Yankeefan007
Broadway Legend
joined:3/20/04
Broadway Legend
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3/20/04
The $70 pricetag is the same for many of the PH shows, no?
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Wanna Be A Foster
Broadway Legend
joined:1/9/05
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Yes, but only when a Hollywood star is in a show do people actually have no choice but to pay full price if they want to see a show.
"Winning a Tony this year is like winning Best Attendance in third grade: no one will care but the winner and their mom."
-Kad

"I have also met him in person, and I find him to be quite funny actually. Arrogant and often misinformed, but still funny."
-bjh2114 (on Michael Riedel)
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KChenowethfan
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joined:9/19/03
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9/19/03
I didn't see this production (I saw the premiere at Woolly in DC where Ruhl premiered a few of her shows) and it is definitely a love it or hate it show, like most of Ruhl's stuff. It did border on absurd but the underlying message of the show was present throughout.
"Why do you care what people might say? Why try to fit into their design?" (Side Show)
gymdudeva
Broadway Star
joined:1/29/07
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1/29/07
I saw the premiere production at Wolley Mammoth Theatre here in DC. Wolley specializes in dark comedies just like this, so I knew what sort of thing to expect. I do agree that it sort or runs out of steam in Act II (I think it should be done without an intermission). The monologue at the top of Act II was almost worth the price of admission, though.
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ray-andallthatjazz86
Broadway Legend
joined:8/2/05
Broadway Legend
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8/2/05
THE CLEAN HOUSE was a perfect example of a realistic play until John Dossett dragged an evergreen tree on stage.

This is a great example of what happens in this play, although it never pretends to be "realistic." Still, by the time it ends, there are just too many "trees on stage" so to speak.
Foster, honestly, it isn't worth the $75. I am glad I went because I had never seen Parker or Chalfant live but I just thought the play was a bit too sloppy for my taste.

I do agree that it sort or runs out of steam in Act II (I think it should be done without an intermission).

I'm glad they had an intermission as I was so bored by the end of Act I that I was falling asleep. The monologue that starts Act II is pretty fabulous though.
To me the scene that was "worth" the price of admission was Parker's scene with Kelly Maurer's character, both of them were at the top of their game. And Chalfan't s first scene was great except for the IDIOT who decided to interrupt it by letting their phone ring.
"Some people can thrive and bloom living life in a living room, that's perfect for some people of one hundred and five. But I at least gotta try, when I think of all the sights that I gotta see, all the places I gotta play, all the things that I gotta be at"
theminorfall
Swing
joined:2/11/08
Swing
joined:
2/11/08
I think the interrupting cell phone is part of the script. I saw the dress rehearsal the day before the canceled preview and there was a cell phone interruption that broke Chalfant's monologue and brought her to the front of the stage to address the audience. Given that there were only a few audience members and Ms. Bogart had already admonished us to turn off our phones, it was easy to tell that the cellphone ring was from sound design. Kudos to them, then, for fooling the audience at the first preview.
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fabala4077
Broadway Star
joined:1/21/07
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I'm looking forward to reading (if not able to see) this play. I'm a big fan of Ruhl's, ever since I saw photos of Eurydice in American Theatre magazine last year. I was lucky enough to see it at 2nd Stage in New York in August, and it did not disappoint!

Oh, and ray, most of Ruhl's protagonists are "very, very odd", like you said. I think they're funny.
"The art of Illusion is the art of love; and the art of love is the blood-red heart of the world." - Tony Kushner, "The Illusion"
burnthemistletoe
Swing
joined:3/27/08
Swing
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3/27/08
So sad that I wont get to see this, MLP is one of my favorite actresses. Does anyone know of any bootlegs of this show? I know it was a really short run, but I am praying to God that someone got a copy! My email is bornalittlelate@aol.com, if you have one!
A Director
Broadway Legend
joined:12/18/07
Broadway Legend
joined:
12/18/07
The Clean House is not a realistic play.