NWU Theatre answers the call in dark comedy

2011-02-10T23:45:00Z NWU Theatre answers the call in dark comedyBy JEFF KORBELIK / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
February 10, 2011 11:45 pm  • 

I'm not one of those people who needs to answer a ringing phone, but Jean, the main character in Sarah Ruhl's comedy, "Dead Man's Cell Phone," is.

And when she does, she finds herself comforting the man's grieving family and embarking on a bizarre, surreal journey.

She should have just let it ring.

Nebraska Wesleyan University Theatre, under Joan Korte's direction, opened Ruhl's play to a full house Thursday night in Miller Theatre, NWU's black box theater.

The students, led by Jenna Mark's Jean, aptly handled Ruhl's goofy script, which began funny but evolved into weird, including a strangely effective monologue at the start of the second act by the dead man -- played by Steve Labedz -- who lamented a missed opportunity at enjoying lobster bisque soup.

Mark played her character Jean with a wide-eyed innocence. She felt sorry for the dead man -- even proclaiming her love for the stranger -- until she slowly came to know him through his mother, wife, brother and mistress.

Also entertaining was Rachel Rubin as the dead man's widow, especially during a martini-swilling scene in the second act in which she admitted she was in a loveless marriage.

Of course, the dead man's cell phone rang several times during the scene, punctuating the message Rubin was driving home. By then, the phone itself had become a major character of sorts.

In the end, we discovered, as Jean eventually did, that some things are better left alone. Like a ringing cell phone. She should have just let it ring.

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 402-473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jeffkorbelik.

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