By Sophie Cannon, deputy arts & entertainment editor
Northeastern’s theater department is back for the 2016-2017 academic year with the tragic yet romantic, “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” a play directed by Jonathan Carr at the Studio Theatre.
“The show is in the title, honestly,” Eva Friedman, fourth year-junior theatre major and the actress playing Jean, said. “Jean sits in a cafe and a cellphone rings and the guy is dead. It’s about how this day is now an extraordinary day for this woman. She falls down the rabbit hole and falls into the lives of the people this man left behind.”
“Dead Man’s Cell Phone” was written by Sarah Ruhl and is centered around a woman, Jean, and what happens when she finds the cellphone of a dead man. Northeastern’s version with a college-aged cast and audience presents a new lens through which to watch and a new challenge for the cast and directors, as the original script was written for an older cast and set in 2006.
“Many of the characters in the play are supposed to be in their 30’s, 40’s and above. You don’t usually think of those types of people living in the social media age,” production manager Kim Mecca said. “But everyone in our cast is obviously college-aged, so they have a little bit more experience and grasp on what it really means to live in our technology-driven world today and how that would affect the characters in the play.”
One of the major topics addressed in the show is in the title itself: the cell phone. Currently, most everyone has a cell phone, and uses it for everyday tasks from mapping their route to work to ordering pizza to filling a prescription. Dead Man’s Cell Phone tries to explain our ties to this piece of technology in a human and relatable way, all while staying within the time period of the mid 2000’s, Carr said.
“In this world of tantalizing, potentially unlimited connection, it’s so hard to make actual true connections, and this play shows us how we can do that. How to create deep personal connections,” Carr, who is also an assistant teaching professor, said. “This play was written when phones were still phones! Now when your phone rings, you’re annoyed by it!”
Another major theme of the show is the idea of grief when faced with death. Jean, the woman who finds the cell phone, has never met the dead man or his family, and yet must face the grief that comes with death and the grief of the family that she encounters over the course of this extraordinary day.
“Everyone grieves in so many different ways, so each audience member that comes can kind of find a way to relate to a little bit of each character on stage and identify with that trait in that character,” Megan Maloney, a senior communications and theatre major and the actress playing Mrs. Gottlieb, the mother of the dead man, said. “All of the characters are so complex and multidimensional, and trying to translate that as an actor to an audience is very difficult. I’m a student, I’m not a mother who is grieving. Trying to translate that as well as the other bits of her has been very challenging but a fun experience for my last semester at Northeastern.”
Though the show stars a dead man and thus features death as a prominent theme, it could not be classified as depressing. Written as a comedy, the show features a dance number, a humorous fight scene and witty one-liners, and has the potential to take the audience through almost every emotion and still leave them wanting to ask questions and host discussions after the curtain closes.
“You’re leaving the theatre having laughed,” Carr said. “This play is structured as a comedy, it’s a romantic comedy, with a happy ending, about death.”
“Dead Man’s Cell Phone” will be in performance at Northeastern’s Studio Theatre through Oct. 29.
Photo courtesy Grant Terzakis