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Stage West Presents Sarah Ruhl's New Comedy DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE, Begins 5/21

It’s like a scene from an Edward Hopper painting – a young woman sits in a nearly-deserted café.  A cell phone rings incessantly at a nearby table, but its owner, Gordon, doesn’t answer.  There’s a good reason – he’s dead.  The woman, Jean, feels compelled to answer the insistent ringing, and this action starts her on an unexpected journey through the dead man’s life, as Stage West presents the area premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone, beginning Thursday, May 21.

Jean feels uniquely responsible for Gordon, since she discovered his death.  And now, having answered his phone, she feels that she should meet with and offer some comfort to his family.  But things turn out to be a bit more complicated (and dangerous!) than she expected, and she finds herself more and more tangled in the loose ends of Gordon’s life.  It’s classic Sarah Ruhl, as the mundane and the fantastical are mixed into a sharply observant and funny brew, tackling the need for real connections in a techno-obsessed world.  Charles Isherwood, writing about the play for The New York Times, notes “She writes surrealist fantasies that happen to be populated by eccentrically real people, comedies in which the surface illogic of dreams is made meaningful—made truthful—by the deeper logic of human feeling.”

Originally from Chicago, Sarah Ruhl received her MFA from Brown University, where she studied under Paula Vogel.  In 2003, she was the recipient of a Helen Merrill Award and a Whiting Writers’ award.  She gained widespread recognition from The Clean House, winner of the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2004 and a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist.  Dead Man’s Cell Phone, which opened in New York in March 2008, received the Helen Hayes’ Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical.  Ms. Ruhl’s other works include Melancholy Play, Late: a cowboy song, Orlando, Eurydice, and Passion Play.

Jim Covault will direct Dead Man’s Cell Phone, which marks the return to our stage of Dana Schultes, appearing as Jean. Michael Corolla, last seen at Stage West as Milton in The Immigrant, will be seen as Gordon. Emily Scott Banks and Sylvia Luedtke, who both appeared in Stage West’s previous Ruhl production, The Clean House (as Matilde and Ana), will play, respectively, Gordon’s widow Hermia, and his mother Mrs. Gottlieb.  The mysterious other women in Gordon’s life will be played by Elizabeth Van Winkle-Haberkorn, acclaimed for her performance as Donna in The Dreamer Examines His Pillow.  And making his Stage West debut as Gordon’s brother Dwight is Dan Forsythe, applauded as Tom in the recent WaterTower production of The Glass Menagerie. 

The set will be designed by Jim Covault, with costumes by Covault and Peggy Kruger-O’Brien. Lighting will be provided by resident lighting designer Michael O’Brien, while Lynn Lovett will handle props and set decor.

Estimated run time for the play:  about 2 hours plus intermission.  The play contains some instances of strong language.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone will preview Thursday, May 21 at 7:30 and Friday, May 22 at 8:00.   Performance times will be Thursday evenings at 7:30, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00, with Sunday matinees at 3:00.  The opening night reception will be Saturday, May 23.  Ticket prices range from $24 to $28, with discounts for students and seniors.  Preview tickets are priced at only $15.  Pay What You Can performances will be Sunday, May 24 and Thursday, May 28. Food service is available 90 minutes prior to performances (reservations strongly advised), and information is available through the Box Office, or on the website, www.stagewest.org.  


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