Savannah's Theatre Blog

Dead Man’s Cell Phone – Sarah Ruhl

Posted in Uncategorized by Savannah on July 12, 2010

What I Noticed…

  • It was confrontation for some (i.e. nudity)
  • A sweet ending emphasised by a brief break down of the 4th wall
  • The purpose for the setting (the laundromat) was not discovered until the end however it was linked with the very beginning of the play which – at the time – seemed irrelevant
  • A cast member entered the audience but did not interact
  • Scene/set changes were done by the cast members wearing black; precise and with music but slow
  • Jean/Lisa McCune gave a beautiful performance; not overly dramatic; perfectly understated; truthful


Dead Man’s Cell Phone is centered around the supposed romance with Jean and Gordon. It came about after her sudden impulse to answer Gordon’s ‘cell’ phone when he was died in the cafe where she was eating. However, as she becomes more involved in Gordon’s life and family she falls for Dwight – a sweet and dorky guy. The plays follows Jean’s confrontations with illegal trade and love.

No Clear Beginning:

The beginning of this play – Dead Man’s Cell Phone – was not stated. The audience was seated and our lights were still on when the play began. There was no announcement of the play’s commencement and no music to indicate that it was beginning. The audience lights were not even turned off, instead,  a naked man walked on to the stage, walked over to one of the washing machines (or dryer – we cannot be sure), took out his clothes and then began to get dressed – all at a steady and comfortable pace. I admired and respected him for this – it would be quite confronting and scary to walk out on a stage causally and naked! 

I was actually reading  through the program when he first walked out and I did not realise what was happening until people in the audience started laughing. However, I liked how there was no clear beginning because it felt instantly more natural and organic; as though it were part of nature’s course.

The meaning and purpose of this (his walking out naked) was not discovered until later in the play. An after life existed in a huge laundromat and the inhabitants only had one set of clothes (the set they died in) meaning that you have to was and dry your clothes naked.

This introduction can be defined as foreshadowing. The “dead man” (Gordon) and Jean end up at this laundromat but Jean only stays there for a short period of time before returning to earth.

It was an effective start, essentially “breaking the ice” as well as an effective technique; it gave us a clue we – the audience – could not fully understand meaning we focussed more (well, I did anyway) to discover what it was all about.

Scene/Set Changes:

The set: Dead Man’s Cell Phone revolved around a laundromat and its’ implements (i.e. washers and driers) which were used for storing props. It was “transformed” into a cafe and a church as well as a stationary shop and various characters’ houses. The changes of props were simple and the setting was indicated by the actors.

The changes: The changes of props,etc. was done by cast members wearing black. The changes were very precise and done with music but if it were not for those two factors,  I would have become very frustrated because they were very slow. I found I did actually enjoy watching the set changes because they were so precise and simple.

By doing this, they broke down the 4th wall, reminding us that they were putting on a play. Never-the-less, I was still absolutely captivated by the play.

Jean/Lisa McCune:

I think that Lisa McCune’s exemplary acting abilities greatly contributed to my ‘(absolute captivation)’ with the play. She was so truthful! Not once did I feel she was acting for show or attention (as I often feel people do); she was telling Jean’s story which enabled us to come up with appropriate interpretations. Furthermore, nothing was over done and, as I said in ‘what I noticed’, perfectly understated. What I mean by this is that she wasn’t so reserved with her portrayal of Jean that she disappeared into the cast but not so outspoken that she took focus away from the rest of the cast. Essentially, she worked as part of a team and not as though she were doing a one-man(woman)-show.

Cast Member Enters Audience:

There was a seat just one row behind me reserved for Jean (Lisa McCune). Her only interaction with the audience was asking those in her row to please move so she could just get to her seat. However this was at such times as the funeral for Gordon (the dead man) where the audience was included as part of the funeral. I’m not sure if this counts as breaking down the fourth wall… Ms Flood?

It was clear though, that doing this created more interest within the audience (as it did in Heracles) and made it that bit more personal.


I absolutely loved this play – the ending was so incredibly sweet that I felt instantly uplifted. Just like that feeling after watching Up. It just made me feel so warm and fuzzy!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: