Mary-Louise Parker

Dead Man's Cell Phone

Sarah Ruhl has spoiled me with a new play annually for the past three years: 2006’s comic fantasy The Clean House; last year’s mythological riff Eurydice (of which I was not enamored, but still admired); and now, the captivating, dark-edged romantic comedy Dead Man’s Cell Phone, currently receiving its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons through March 25. To call Cell Phone — which focuses on the very lonely Jean (Mary-Louise Parker), a corpse in a café, and his ringing mobile — ”quirky” almost cheapens Ruhl’s extraordinarily creative premise. Because Jean now possesses dead man Gordon’s still-chirping, still-buzzing phone — she suddenly has a way to connect to people, like his haughty mother (a dynamite Kathleen Chalfant). ”You’re very comforting,” she tells Jean. ”I don’t know why. You’re like a very small — casserole.” She finds love, in the form of Gordon’s awkward brother Dwight (David Aaron Baker), who seduces her with stationery; they bond — quite literally — over embossed invitations. She suddenly has a life. Parker, with her rubber-band physique and slack, low-key delivery, is perfect as the open-hearted naïf; she’s probably the only stage actress of her generation who can pull off a line like ”I want to remember everything — even other people’s memories.” Her focus keeps Cell Phone centered even when the plot goes astray (a second-act Alias-lite girl-on-girl airport-set fight scene is more than quirky — it’s just plain daffy…how’d that gun get through security, anyway?). And she’s a great match for Ruhl. (There’s quite a bit of Craig Lucas — in whose dramedies Prelude to a Kiss and Reckless the actress appeared — in Ruhl’s work.) With any luck, the playwright will be able to persuade Parker to star in her next flight of fancy. (212-279-4200 or B+

Dead Man's Cell Phone
  • Stage