Sandy Lake —
By Barbara Mountjoy
Special to the Tribune
What do you do when the phone rings? You answer it.
We’re all trained to do this from the time we can even pick up the receiver, these days, down into the elementary years or even younger. So we shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, when a young woman, annoyed that the man at the next table at her lunchtime café lets his phone ring on and on, answers his phone.
And there begins the production of Dead Man’s Cell Phone, opening March 25 at 8:15 p.m. at Meadville Community Theatre. The reason Gordon (Mitch Micosky) is not answering his phone is because he’s dead. But the reason Jean (Lauren Farruggia) answers it—that’s much more obscure.
What follows is a somewhat fantastic story that seems to focus on the cell phone as a metaphor for connection between people who hardly seem connected at all. Gordon’s mother, Mrs. Gottlieb, (Deb Ormston, channeling a gravelly-voiced Katherine Hepburn) for example, makes the statement that as long as her son’s cell rings, she can convince herself he’s not gone.
But every time Gordon’s phone rings, it pulls sweet, innocent Jean farther into a world of shady businesses, mysterious women and dysfunctional families. Gordon’s widow Hermia, played as a distant, somewhat perplexed woman by Pam Micosky, claims that she isn’t connected to Gordon, or often even to herself. During sex, she says, instead of fantasizing her partner is someone else, she fantasizes that she is someone else. The only reason the two Mrs. Gottliebs look likely to have a relationship now is because each were attached to the lost Gordon, not because they care anything about each other.
Jean wiggles herself into this fractured family situation through her electronic connection on the phone, meeting at last Gordon’s younger brother Dwight (played by Meadville attorney Matt Jorden), to whom she’s drawn, at the same time feeling very much alone and isolated. Dwight has been a somewhat neglected younger brother of the dead man, and he seems to find Gordon’s passing might open some doors for him, including the chance for love.
At the same time Jean defends her “relationship” with Gordon to all his family who wonder how the two had known each other and how she got the phone, she also encounters the dark side of Gordon’s business, and his mistress, played by a deeply alarming Sonia Firster. She even meets Gordon, Micosky’s brusque, angry, driven man who rants about how little he cares for or understands his family or they him. Or does she?
By the second act, the conversations become so bizarre that one must question whether they could be real—take for example, Gordon announcing that “Life is a giant Brillo pad!”
“We all disappear the more we’re here,” Jean says, in the same minor note that reverberates from the walls, in the clothing, the conversation, the background music. Even the set lends itself to the minimalist, almost magical feel of the show with scene changes seamlessly sliding into place and away just as easily.
Director Bob Russell says he is “thrilled and excited” to bring this show to the Meadville stage, the most recent in a series of productions that includes My Fair Lady and No Mother to Guide Her, citing “the surreal plot and the quirky characters.” This reviewer would second that accolade. This show leaves the audience thinking, wondering, about how connected they are to their own friends and family. What makes a connection? Is that constant text barrage real love and attachment? What do you think it is?
Dead Man’s Cell Phone plays April 1, 2, 8 & 9, at 8:15 p.m. and April 3 at 2:15 p.m. at MCT, in the Oddfellows Building, 400 North Main Street, Meadville, PA. Tickets ate $10 for adults and $7.50 for students (high school and up) and seniors. For reservations or additional information, please call 333-1773.