Dead Man’s Cell Phone

A brilliant play with a horribly uncreative title, Dead Man’s Cell Phone debuted last year in New York City with Mary Louise Parker (Weeds) as the lead, Jean–a woman who witnesses the abrupt death in a cafe of a 30-something man named Gordon, starts answering his cell phone, puts it in her purse, then proceeds to learn about his life through the family and acquaintances who make post-mortem attempts to reach him. ArtsWest’s snappy production of this black-as-coal comedy stars Emily Grogan as Jean, the sober center around which a dazzling array of comic talents flit and flourish. Grogan, while solid, could stand to sharpen her delivery to catch up to the likes of Julie Jamieson, who steals every scene she’s in as Gordon’s hilariously loopy mother. And Mike Dooly, still and silent for the entire first half of the two-hour play (he’s dead, after all), kicks off the second half with a powerhouse 10-minute monologue that reveals a slimy–albeit plenty entertaining–side which Jean is as yet unaware of. But at the core of Sarah Ruhl’s exceptionally clever script is a disdain for the go-go age of technology of which the cellphone is an emblem, a luddite’s manifesto of sorts that most vividly reveals itself in a scene about Jean and Gordon’s brother Dwight’s love of embossed stationery–and, in turn, one another. MIKE SEELY

Tue., Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Sept. 8. Continues through Sept. 27, 2009