Photo by Eric Dickman
Sascha Streckel as Jean contemplates a mysterious cell phone in Burien Little Theatre’s “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.”

Wonderful, quirky comedy emerges from the ring tones in Burien Little Theatre’s latest production

“Welcome to Burien Little Theatre. Please take the opportunity now to silence your cell phone before the start of the show. There will be plenty of cell phone ringing on stage as it is...Thank you.”

Okay, so this really wasn’t the pre-show speech as the curtain rose on Burien Little Theatre’s season opener, “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.” But, it might as well have been. You will hear the ringing of a cell phone on stage almost immediately. Then, you hear it some more. As you might guess from the title of the play, you will hear a cell phone ringing throughout most of the show.

But, that’s not all you will see and hear. A wonderful, quirky comic story will also emerge from the repeated ring tones...a story that will have you drawn in easily and willingly as we follow the journey of a lonely woman, Jean.

We first see Jean (Sascha Streckel) seated at a cafe, enjoying some lobster bisque and a cup of coffee, attempting to get some paperwork done during her lunch hour.

It is then we first hear that incessant ringing. Jean becomes increasingly annoyed, as she wonders why the cell phone owner at the next table is not answering the call. How can she get her work done with all that ringing?

Soon she realizes the man at the table is not answering his phone because he has just died. Overcome with a sense of compassion and duty, Jean answers the cell phone. Thus starts her strange and mixed-up adventure into the life of Gordon, the mysterious dead man.

Soon we learn that Gordon (Kevin Finney) has a shady past. He also has a suspicious present, which includes a mistress (Anna Richardson), a domineering mother (Connie Murray), a hard-drinking wife (Brynne Garman) and a meek younger brother (Gaelen J. Poage).

Soon Jean finds that Gordon’s cell phone is more than just a piece of technology. It is a tie to his past, an anchor in the present that keeps him alive in the eyes of his family and the catalyst for a strange and daring adventure.

Director Maggie Larrick has put together a fine production that includes both over-the-top performances (from Murray and Garman) and subtler, low-key acting (from Finney and Poage). The balance of both intensities is welcome and keeps the offbeat comedy from going too far. Streckel’s performance as Jean is a nice blending of both low and moderate intensity, which centers the story very well.

Particularly enjoyable to watch, Streckel is the ideal lead player in this bizarre tale. If the audience is to go on this funny and odd journey with Jean, she must become the likable but trustworthy tour guide who will help us maneuver and process the adventure. Streckel does just that.

Considering he is playing a dead guy, Finney is also a joy to watch. He is the man with the questionable past, but Finney’s Gordon rises above that label and becomes one of the more intriguing characters of the show.

Also contributing to the show is an ensemble of dancers/stage hands consisting of Tamsyn Kine, Sarah Merry and Lauren Scoville. With their fluid and graceful work, director Larrick was able to simplify the scenic concept and avoid over-producing the set and the multiple location changes.

Just a hint to the audience without giving away too much of the story: this play takes us to wonderful locales that are farther away than we ever imagined.

Sarah Ruhl’s comedy opens Friday, Sept. 27 and continues through Oct. 21. Log onto www.burienlittletheatre.org or call 206-242-5180 for reservations and ticket information.

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