Dead Man's Cell Phone: Examining Relationships in the Technological Era
This post is by Matt DeCaro, a Senior Business major.
Sarah Ruhl’s play Dead Man’s Cell Phone, which UMD’s School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies recently brought to life at the Clarice Smith Center, is a fascinating portrayal of relationships in the technological era. Ruhl explores love and death in a peculiar fashion, often reaching into the absurd. The play may have taken some wild plot turns, but its exploration of technology’s role in love was pretty interesting.
The play didn’t cause me to reevaluate the amount of time that I spend on my phone or Facebook, but it did push me to think about how I maintain my relationships.
Madeline Whiting did a great job of playing Jean, a sweet and uncomfortably curious woman, who steals the cell phone of a man she saw die in a restaurant. She builds an intimate relationship with the dead man through the people who call the phone and thus inserts herself into the life he used to have. Jean uses the cell phone as a crutch to explore what could have been with a man who will never be but, when she meets the dead man’s brother, a suitable and intimate match, she has trouble letting go of the dead brother.
Shane O’Loughlin plays Dwight, the awkward and bashful brother, who instantly falls in love with Jean, and fights for Jean’s attention. The remarkable part about this absurd love triangle is that we consider technology to be a tool for us to stay connected to those we care about, but the cell phone in the play allows Jean to stay connected to someone (who is dead) at the cost of disconnecting her with someone else (who is alive).
The play didn’t cause me to reevaluate the amount of time that I spend on my phone or Facebook, but it did push me to think about how I maintain my relationships. Do I spend too much time on the internet or the phone? Should I put down the devices and have more face-to-face conversations? I’m not sure. Maybe if I develop a relationship with a recently deceased stranger I’ll reconsider.