By Cassie LeBel
The show opened with a sight that seemed all too familiar to the real world. Nameless characters passed each other on stage, eyes glued to their phones. No one stoped to say hi or even to acknowledge one another as they cross the stage.
Cape Cod Community College’s (4Cs) production of Dead Man’s Cell Phone—which premiered October 25 through November 4 in the Tilden Arts Center—was a show that explored the pros and cons of how technology can affect relationships.
“I think everyone can relate to the idea that we connect with people through our cell phones,” said the show’s producer Vana Trudeau. “So much of our relationships are documented, nurtured and sometimes broken using these devices.”
Playwright Sarah Ruhl uses thoughtful yet humorous dialogue to create relatable characters that come to life on stage despite the morbid nature of the show.
The cast was full of stand-out performances. One of which was Celia Cota, a senior from Monomoy Regional High School, who portrayed the main character Jean.
Sitting in a cafe one afternoon, Jean heard the sound of a cell phone that would not stop ringing from the table beside hers. She attempted to wake the stranger seated there, but when he did not budge and his phone kept ringing, she decided to answer his call and take a message.
After a hilarious realization that the man sitting beside Jean had in fact passed away, his phone rang again and she found herself answering for him once more. This prompted Jean to become attached to the stranger through the idea that because of technology people are still able to contact this man despite the fact that he has died.
“I would describe her as a normal woman who is shy, awkward and naive. She is very much a people pleaser,” said Cota. “In the show she sees Gordon die and makes it her mission to comfort his family and answer his phone to ‘keep him alive’ in a way without even personally knowing him.”
The stranger that she felt connected to is Gordon Gottlieb, played by actor Santino Torretti.
Through continuing to answer his phone Jean ended up meeting some of his callers in person as a way to try to mend some of the relationships that he left behind. Among them were: his widow Hermia who is portrayed by a 4Cs dual enrollment student Jessica Ashe, his brother Dwight, and his mother Mrs. Gottlieb.
Dwight was portrayed by acting newcomer Luke Headley. Headley brought a high level of optimism to a character that was experiencing serious hard times with the passing of his brother and the resentment that his mother felt towards him now that he was her only son.
While technology brought Jean to these people and helped her form relationships with them technology can also cause a connection to break down.
There is a romantic moment shared between Jean and Dwight, which was interrupted as Gordon’s cell phone went off once again. Dwight tried to keep her in the moment, but it was clear that she desperately wished to answer Gordon’s ringing phone instead.
Through Jean’s view it felt more validating to be contacted through a phone as opposed to speaking with someone face to face.
It is this face to face disconnect and constantly choosing an artificial connection over a real one that the writer wanted to make the audience conscious of.
Gioia Sabatinelli played Gordon’s mother Mrs. Gottlieb. According to Sabatinelli, Mrs. Gottlieb was “a loud and unapologetic woman who handles her son’s death in an inappropriate manner.”
Her exaggerated behavior’s brought in much of the show’s humorous aspects while also helping to deliver some of the most poignant messages of the production.
In her first scene, Mrs. Gottlieb was giving Gordon’s eulogy when a cell phone went off in the church. This prompted her to break away from the speech she had prepared in order to give her blunt opinion on cell phones. She poked fun about peoples need to bring these devices with them everywhere, even the bathroom.
Mrs. Gottlieb goes on to finish the eulogy that she had prepared, but her thoughts travel back to the cellphone. The last line of her speech closes the scene, leaving the audience time to think about and realize the truth behind her words.
“You’ll never walk alone. That’s right. Because you’ll always have a machine in your pants that might ring,” said Mrs. Gottlieb. Although her character said this with spite, we later find out that calling Gordon on his cell phone every day was actually a comforting habit for her before he had died.
The actress behind the character is able to see the benefits of technology despite her characters indifference.
“People like to blame technology for corrupting minds and hindering real human connection,” said Sabatinelli. “However, when we’re separated from those we care about, we are very lucky to have these tiny devices that connect us to someone with the press of a button.”