The star of Broadway's Proof and TV's "Weeds" plays Jean, a mousey character who lies to the relatives of the man whose phone she picks up. In the Anne Bogart-directed play on the themes of mortality, empathy and connection in the age of cold technology and soulless transactions, Jean wants to be the agent of the survivors' happiness — she makes them feel good by suggesting the dead man was thinking of them in his last moments.
T. Ryder Smith plays the title character, Gordon, replacing Bill Camp, who created the role in previews before leaving for another job obligation. Smith last appeared at Playwrights Horizons in She Stoops to Comedy. He previously worked with playwright Ruhl in The Goodman Theatre production of her Passion Play.
The production began previews Feb. 9, one day later than originally announced.
The cast also features Drama Desk and Obie Award winner and Tony nominee Kathleen Chalfant (Wit, Angels in America and the current Vita and Virginia) as Gordon's red-meat-eating mother; David Aaron Baker (Broadway's A Raisin in the Sun, The Rainmaker, Abe Lincoln in Illinois) as Gordon's brother, Dwight, who works in the stationery business; Carla Harting (Off-Broadway's Eurydice, Orson's Shadow) as The Other Woman, Gordon's mistress and a colleague in his dark line of work; and Kelly Maurer (Broadway's The Old Neighborhood) as Gordon's widow.
According to Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons, "Gordon is dead, but his cell phone lives on. When Jean (Mary-Louise Parker), an empathetic museum worker, answers his ringing phone beside her in a café, she is soon playing unwitting comforter and confessor to the man's grieving friends and family. Before she knows it, Jean is ensnarled in the underbelly of the dead man's bizarre life. A wildly imaginative new comedy, Dead Man's Cell Phone is the odyssey of a woman forced to confront her assumptions about morality, redemption and the need to connect in a technology-obsessed world." The production features scenic and costume designs by G.W. Mercier, lighting design by Brian H. Scott and soundscape by Darron L. West. Production stage manager is Elizabeth Moreau.
Director Anne Bogart is artistic director of SITI Company, which she founded with Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki in 1992. The troupe is known for its creation of potent images and its commitment to an ensemble ethic.
The performance schedule is Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2:30 & 8 PM and Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 PM.
For more information visit www.playwrightshorizons.org or call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200.
Dead Man's Cell Phone had its world premiere in 2007 in a production by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC.