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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Absurdist comedy takes aim at the cellphone

Bruce Hardie plays Dwight and Jess Waterhouse, Jean, in Dead Man’s Cell Phone. Photo: Kate Harris

Billed as an “absurdist romantic comedy,” Canberra Rep’s next offering, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, begins when Jean (Jess Waterhouse), noticing that the man next to her in a café fails to answer his mobile phone, finds he’s dead.

Wanting to offer comfort to his family, she keeps answering the phone and on one level, the play follows Jean’s accidental quest to make a few people feel just a little bit better about themselves.

On another level, she is forced to confront her own assumptions about morality, redemption, and the need to connect in a technologically-obsessed world.

Written by American playwright and Pulitzer prize finalist, Sarah Ruhl, the play took Broadway by storm.

Now it’s directed by Kate Blackhurst, who says she was drawn to the play because it asks such important questions.

“Everyone these days has a mobile phone, to the extent that no one is ever alone. Nothing is really silent any more. They have a culture of their own and demand instant attention,” Blackhurst says,

“In some ways they have made the intimate art of communication very commonplace, but on the other hand, fewer people go to the local shop and talk to the person behind the counter or chat to their neighbour over the fence, because they would rather send an email or receive a text.”

Playwright Ruhl, for her part, has said, “I was interested in the culture of cell phones, in how they have completely altered our emotional, psychic and body states to the point where culture (and perhaps not even evolution) has caught up.”

It’s provocative, maybe, but Rep describes it as “a bizarre romance that is ultimately uplifting and optimistic”.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Canberra Rep Theatre, Acton, June 13-June 29. 

Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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