By Gabrielle Lamontagne
“Plays can be deceiving little things,” David Kaye said in his Director’s Note for “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” on the program. “You find yourself going down twists and turns you never saw or expected.”
In the Johnson Theater on Oct. 8 there was a cozy buzz of voices filling the empty space that evening, increasing as students, faculty and families, some of whom were carrying flowers for cast members, filed into the auditorium. People chatted, texted, socialized with new people seated beside them, and some even laughed over their phones.
As the lights dimmed and the usual announcements played, the attention was drawn to three small, round, white tables illuminated by spotlights onstage. These tables were set to portray a small café. At this point, it was obvious that the front section of seating was nearly full.
Sophomore Sonja Cotton said, “I didn’t think there would be this many people here.”
“It’s a darker comedy,” Marketing and Promotions Specialist for the UNH Department of Theater and Dance Jamie Clavet said. “It’s funny because it’s awkward: a very quirky show.”
Audience members who grasped that concept were intrigued by it.
“I loved all the people walking around with cellphones and how creepy they were,” said junior Kandyce Tucker in reference to the way scene changes were carried out.
Department chair and Dead Man’s director David Kaye wrote, “In (playwright Sarah) Ruhl’s case – ‘poetic license’ can be taken more directly. Her plays are poems. And poems can take us on flights of fancy… A logical moment can suddenly veer off into an unexpected tangent.” According to some audience members, there’s another word for that sensation: confusing.
Sophomore Gennavieve Adair explained her impression, saying, “Well you see, a show called ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’: I expected it to be a murder mystery,” adding that she, “did not know that it was going to be so strange.”
Some of the audience members were there for a class, while others had friends in the show. Speaking of her friend Marjorie Boyer, who played “The Other Woman,” Tucker said, “(Marjorie) told us she had to do a whole fight scene in heels…She looked hot (in the red raincoat costume).”
No one could deny that the actors filled their costumes well – the show had quite an attractive and talented cast.
This zany and profound, yet eerie comedy discusses coping with loss, cellphone usage and emotional connection to others in the 21st century, as well as the belief that everyone is essentially good.
“Despite this play’s refusal to conform to our expectations and our demands to keep the story fixed on the linear path, this poem-infused play is more revelatory of our lives than we might expect,” said director Kaye.
Not all of the chaos was appreciated by audience members, however.
Tucker said, “I didn’t like that you didn’t know what his job was until halfway through.”
Some liked the drama and skill of the fight scene while others enjoyed the hilarity of human conduct and conversation.
“I really liked the fight scene – or when the wife was really drunk…that was really funny,” said Cotton with a laugh.
There were mixed feelings about the paper-house setting, which was lowered and raised from the ceiling.
“(The play) was so weird…the actors did a great job, the ensemble did a great job. It was definitely well-executed. From another planet: out of this world…literally…I liked it,” said Adair.
Cotton continued, “I thought it was really cool…It was a small amount of people but they pulled off a really good production.”
Clavet had explained that there were about 30 students involved, whether through the stagecraft class, tech crew, as an actor or as a stage manager.
The actors’ performance was powerful, but particularly that of junior Kayleigh Kane, who played protagonist Jean. This play leaves something for everyone in its trace: a bit of humor and romance, but also death, violence and philosophy. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one left stunned and with wet eyelashes.