Those looking for an oddball comedy complete with evil twins and talking cellphones will find it onstage at Carroll Community College this weekend.
The college presents “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” by Sarah Ruhl, Nov. 21-23 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. at the Theater in the Scott Center on campus. Tickets are available at the door for $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and members of the Carroll Community College student body, alumni or staff.
Director Emily Hall said the show is a little bit slapstick and a little bit melodramatic.
“It’s light but it does have some serious moments,” she said. “It’s not really making that much of a big statement. It’s ideally just to entertain.”
According to the synopsis on the publisher’s website, the play begins with “An incessantly ringing cell phone in a quiet café. A stranger at the next table who has had enough. And a dead man – with a lot of loose ends.”
The show has often been produced in a film noir style, but Hall said in the Carroll production, they decided to take their inspiration from the over-the-top flavor of soap operas popular in the 1990s. The stage of the Theater in the Scott Center has been transformed into a giant TV set and those familiar with soap opera tropes will find familiar elements in the costuming and sound design.
For most productions of the play, the titular dead man’s cellphone is just a prop. But for this Carroll production, the phone is played by an actor, Maya Hand, in a giant phone costume. To research for the role, she called her grandfather and asked him to impersonate the sounds of the first cellphone he ever owned.
For some of the younger actors in the show, the golden era of ’90s soaps took place while they were infants, or even earlier. Hall said Theatre Department Chair Jane Frazier has been leading the dramaturgy efforts.
“When I make references in rehearsal, like ‘You know when cell phones were like thousands of dollars and you could only keep them in your car?’ And the kids just look at me like, ‘What are you talking about?’" she said.
She said that within the cast and crew, there’s been an opportunity for cross generation discussion about their experiences with phones and technology.
Hall said, “I think one of the reasons [the show] is universally appealing is because it’s a subject matter that we all really have to deal with, like life and death and then the ever-increasing use of technology, and then the role that plays after we’re dead, which is a weird thing we have to start thinking about, I guess, in this generation."