U.Va. Drama Department Continues Season with Sarah Ruhl's 'Dead Man's Cell Phone'

March 16, 2010

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Jane Ford:

March 15, 2010 — Are we dead when our hearts stop, or when our cell phones stop ringing?

This is just one of the questions posed in Sarah Ruhl's smart and quirky comedy, "Dead Man's Cell Phone," which continues the 2009-10 University of Virginia Drama Department season. The play opens March 25 in the Helms Theatre.

When a woman chooses to answer a dead man's cell phone at a restaurant, she begins an odyssey that soon has her at the epicenter of the bizarre life he left behind and fully ensnarled in a tangled web of lies of her own making. Her intricate ruse delivers plenty of laughs along with fascinating observations about mortality and our obsessive need to connect in this digital age.

Ruhl's "Dead Man's Cell Phone," directed by U.Va. drama professor Betsy Rudelich Tucker, will be presented at the Helms Theatre from March 25 to 27, 30 and 31 and April 1 to 3. All performances begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14 ($12 for seniors and U.Va. faculty, staff and Alumni Association members, and $8 for students).

"The play is poetic, odd, quirky, lumpy and uneven, in ways like life is lumpy and uneven. It is sometimes very personal and challenging, sometimes outrageous, funny and poetic," Tucker said. "Ruhl, like her teacher Charles Mee, has moments in her play where the reality of her play breaks open, and we shift time and space. Weird and unexpected things can and do happen in those moments."

Designed by a team of U.Va. undergraduate students, the set, lighting, costumes and sound for "Dead Man's Cell Phone" come together to give the audience a uniquely intimate experience in a theater-in-the-round setting.

"Working the 'round' is a challenge for actors, but quite fun for the audience," Tucker said.

Community dancers will also be featured in the production each night. Nineteen adult and student dancers from U.Va. and the local community have been cast to perform in the "cell phone ballet." Each performance will feature a different combination of dancers and improvised movements. A broad thematic structure, choreographed by U.Va. drama professor Marianne Kubik, will be coupled with the lyrical strands of singer Zora Tucker and creative sound editing by U.Va. drama professor Michael Rasbury and undergraduate student Audrey Edwards to produce a different theatrical experience each night.

Tickets for all spring semester productions can be purchased online [link to: http://www.artsboxoffice.virginia.edu/], and also are available by phone at 434-924-3376 and in person at the Arts Box Office, located in the lobby of the Culbreth Theatre, weekdays from noon to 5 p.m. A $3.50 processing fee applies to Internet and phone orders.

Full-time U.Va. students can receive one free ticket to every performance of "Dead Man's Cell Phone," but those must be reserved in advance. For information, contact the U.Va. Arts Box Office.

The 2009-2010 season will close with the musical fairy tale "Pippin" (Culbreth Theatre, April 22-24, April 28-30 and May 1).

For information on the 2009-2010 season, visit www.virginia.edu/drama.

— By Jenny Mays