Delaware, Theatre

Finally picked up the Dead Man’s Cell Phone in spaces where Time Stands Still

I had a very enjoyable double header of theatrical outings right in my backyard on Thursday and Friday night, but might have waited a little too long to write about them. It is interesting to notice how the energy wanes after seeing the show, although the positive impression lingers. What I may mean to say is that writing about the experience now feels more like a chore or task to do, as opposed to the riding of enthusiasm and creativity in that post-show mood.

Thursday evening brought a visit to the Bootless Artworks Theatre Company for their production of Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl. This was (at least) the fourth opportunity I’d had to see this play, and it was worth the wait even after reading the full script last fall. It was a pleasure to see storefront theatre in action, too, strongly reminiscent of my old friends at AlterTheater in San Rafael. Emphasis was placed on evocation rather than realism, and I felt that worked well in the context of the play alongside some subtle lighting cues. It seemed that some of the acting styles of the ensemble clashed a bit, but the cast did individually work well with each other to tell the story and move the play along.

Friday brought a return visit to the Delaware Theatre Company for their Regional Premiere of Time Stands Still, enjoying its first outside of NYC production following a successful run with Laura Linney in the lead role. This version has vaulted to the top of my shows seen for this year, and I’ll be curious to see if it lingers. The production offered a stunning natural realism shared by the actors, designers, and director. A spacious and evocative set led the viewer into the lives of Sarah and James, connected journalists based in NYC but with their hearts and minds elsewhere in the world. Their longtime friend Richard and his new lady-friend Mandy occasionally dropped by to see how things are going. As the play begins, Sarah has been injured while photographing a (un-named) war torn country oversees. It’s clear this predicament has troubled James, but their path from there is anything but what I expected it to be.

As I said above, the specificity was admirable throughout the show, whether having rain appear in the back of the stage, real food being cooked in a kitchen area, and other natural-seeming loft decor. The one distraction for me involved a television running on one side of the stage while crucial character development occurred on the other. My eyes were drawn to the novelty of the TV, but in doing so, I missed the initiation of a plot thread. It was interesting to notice that the story continued during the scene transitions, with the actors functioning as their own in-character run crew while using a gracious and considerate level of body language.

Since this was a co-production, it will now move to the Act II Playhouse up in Ambler, Pennsylvania. I’m pleased to know that more audiences will have a chance to visit this distinguished work.


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