Dead Man's Cell Phone (TCG Edition)
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“Satire is her oxygen. . . . In her new oddball comedy, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Sarah Ruhl is forever vital in her lyrical and biting takes on how we behave.”—The Washington Post
“Ruhl’s zany probe of the razor-thin line between life and death delivers a fresh and humorous look at the times we live in.”—Variety
“Sarah Ruhl is deliriously imaginative and fearless in her choice of subject matter. She is an original.”—Molly Smith, artistic director, Arena Stage
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. So begins Dead Man’s Cell Phone, a wildly imaginative new comedy by playwright Sarah Ruhl, recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and Pulitzer Prize finalist for her play The Clean House. A work about how we memorialize the dead—and how that remembering changes us—it is the odyssey of a woman forced to confront her own assumptions about morality, redemption, and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world.
Sarah Ruhl’s plays have been produced at theaters around the country, including Lincoln Center Theater, the Goodman Theatre, Arena Stage, South Coast Repertory, Yale Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, among others, and internationally. She is the recipient of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (for The Clean House, 2004), the Helen Merrill Emerging Playwrights Award, and the Whiting Writers’ Award. The Clean House was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005. She is a member of 13P and New Dramatists.
JEAN Gordon—sold organs? HERMIA I thought you were in in-coming. JEAN I was. HERMIA And you didn’t know what was in the packages? JEAN No—I guess I didn’t. HERMIA That’s funny! Well, I’m sorry to ruin your illusions about Gordon. I was never supposed to know—I told my friends he was in waste management. I remember one sad case. Gordon convinced a Brazilian man to give his kidney to a woman in Israel. Gordon paid him five thousand dollars cash. Gordon probably
MRS. GOTTLIEB Good. We’ll be having large quantities of meat. I’m a little anemic, you know. I eat a large steak every day and it just goes right through me. JEAN Oh, I’m sorry. MRS. GOTTLIEB So—seven o’clock. JEAN Seven o’clock. Great. I’m just going to run out for a moment—I have an errand— MRS. GOTTLIEB Very good, Jean. We’ll see you at seven. scene five Gordon’s brother, Dwight. Gordon’s widow, Hermia. Gordon’s mother. And Jean. Everyone wears black, except
DWIGHT That’s right, he did. JEAN Oh, I’ll move— MRS. GOTTLIEB No, no, time to move on, no time like the present. They all look at Jean for a long moment. Jean hiccups. JEAN Excuse me, I’m sorry. I have the hiccups. Jean stands up and hiccups. MRS. GOTTLIEB There’s water through there, dear. JEAN Thanks. Jean exits and hiccups. HERMIA What a strange duck. MRS. GOTTLIEB Yes, but she knew Gordon. Try to be welcoming, Hermia. DWIGHT How’d she know
shitting me, no fucking way, bitch, if you’re shitting me I’ll fucking kill you,” you know, that kind of thing, and there were all these old people in line and it was like she didn’t care if she told her whole life, the worst part of her life, in front of the people in line. It was like—people who are in line at pharmacies must be strangers. By definition. And I thought that was sad. But when Gordon’s phone rang and rang, after he died, I thought his phone was beautiful, like it was the only
someone calls. Maybe an old childhood friend. You never know. DWIGHT Did you love my brother? JEAN I didn’t know him well enough to love him. DWIGHT It kind of seems like you do. JEAN Were the two of you very close? DWIGHT We had our moments. Gordon wasn’t always—easy. JEAN Tell me a story about him. DWIGHT One time Gordon made up a character named Mr. Big X and he said: I’ll take you to meet Mr. Big X! I was really excited to meet Mr. Big X. But in order to