Stage Review

Dead Man's Cell Phone (2008)

Mary-Louise Parker | DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE Mary Louise Parker is perfect as the play's open-hearted naïf; her focus keeps it centered even when the plot goes astray
DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE Mary Louise Parker is perfect as the play's open-hearted naïf; her focus keeps it centered even when the plot goes astray
EW's GRADE
B+

Details Opening Date: Feb 09, 2008; Writer: Sarah Ruhl; Director: Anne Bogart

Sarah Ruhl has spoiled me with a new play annually for the past three years: 2006's comic fantasy The Clean House; last year's mythological riff Eurydice (of which I was not enamored, but still admired); and now, the captivating, dark-edged romantic comedy Dead Man's Cell Phone, currently receiving its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons through March 25. To call Cell Phone — which focuses on the very lonely Jean (Mary-Louise Parker), a corpse in a café, and his ringing mobile — ''quirky'' almost cheapens Ruhl's extraordinarily creative premise. Because Jean now possesses dead man Gordon's still-chirping, still-buzzing phone — she suddenly has a way to connect to people, like his haughty mother (a dynamite Kathleen Chalfant). ''You're very comforting,'' she tells Jean. ''I don't know why. You're like a very small — casserole.'' She finds love, in the form of Gordon's awkward brother Dwight (David Aaron Baker), who seduces her with stationery; they bond — quite literally — over embossed invitations. She suddenly has a life. Parker, with her rubber-band physique and slack, low-key delivery, is perfect as the open-hearted naïf; she's probably the only stage actress of her generation who can pull off a line like ''I want to remember everything — even other people's memories.'' Her focus keeps Cell Phone centered even when the plot goes astray (a second-act Alias-lite girl-on-girl airport-set fight scene is more than quirky — it's just plain daffy...how'd that gun get through security, anyway?). And she's a great match for Ruhl. (There's quite a bit of Craig Lucas — in whose dramedies Prelude to a Kiss and Reckless the actress appeared — in Ruhl's work.) With any luck, the playwright will be able to persuade Parker to star in her next flight of fancy. (212-279-4200 or Ticketcentral.com) B+

Originally posted Mar 07, 2008
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