Love, mortality and technology are three major themes woven through Sarah Ruhl’s innovative play “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” directed by Tyler Ryan, opening this February at the San Juan Community Theatre.
“At the root of the story is connecting and finding true love across the barriers of technology, life, and death,” Ryan said, who admitted he didn’t realize how close to Valentine’s day the play was running but says the timing is fitting.
“Dead Man’s Cell Phone” will be showing Feb. 17-18 and 23 -25 and March 2-4 at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays Feb. 19 and 26 at 2 p.m. at the San Juan Community Theatre. Tickets are $19 for adults, $10 for students, and $5 student rush at the door; call the box office at 378-3210 or visit sjctheatre.org. Ryan cautions that due to explicit language, the production is for ages 15 and up.
Ryan was first introduced to the play during one of theatre’s adult educational programs “On Book!” Attendees of that program loved it – as did Ryan.
“It was surprisingly funny, intelligent and unique,” he said, adding that he personally was drawn to it because it asks a lot of the audience’s and actor’s imagination.
“‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ a great play for people to try something different. It’s a really different flavor than what you might typically taste at the theatre,” said Ryan.
He explained that the journey the characters go on is very fantastical. Ruhl is a well-known playwright whose work has been performed across the country. Ryan says her bare-boned style allows flexibility for artists to use their own creative interpretation to tell the story.
“At first it seems like it’s about death, but it’s really about finding genuine love and connection,” he said.
The play begins as Jean, played by Shannon Kelley, answers the ceaselessly ringing cell phone of a dead man, Gordan, played by Douglas Schirmer. Jean creates her own story for Gordan, and falls in love with him without having spoken a word to him. As a result, she becomes increasingly drawn into his family and his life.
“At first Jean is fooled by love and goes down a path that – at least originally – seems easy,” Ryan said.
As the play unfolds, Jean learns that people are not always who they seem to be, and makes a deeper more meaningful connection along the way.
While this is not the first play Ryan has directed, it is the first play he has led at the community theatre. As a Friday Harbor High School alum, he said the opportunity is a special honor after having spent so much of his childhood in the building participating in school plays.
Ryan said he is delighted by his cast and design team, and the level of commitment they have brought to the play.
“One of the best choices I’ve made has been bringing these people together; they have been excited to tackle this unusual project,” he said.
For more information, visit www.sjctheatre.org.