Dalkey Players present ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ by Sarah Ruhl


Abstract minimal setting;  various locations


Most of us are still addicted to our smart phones. Few of us have narrowly escaped the trap of text messaging and twitter obsessions. We live in an age with these seemingly magical devices that promise constant connection yet leave many of us feeling stranded.
Dead Man’s Cell Phone explores the paradox of modern technology’s ability to both unite and isolate people in the digital age.
What’s it about?
An incessantly ringing cell phone in a quiet café…….
A stranger at the next table who has had enough…….
And a dead man – with a lot of loose ends!
So begins Dead Man’s Cell Phone, an oddball comedy by playwright Sarah Ruhl, recipient of a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant and Pulitzer Prize finalist. This play is a moving and funny exploration of how, in the midst of our fragile lives, technology can both unite and isolate us, especially in our quest for true love.
Whimsical, wistful, and absurd, Dead Man’s Cell Phone brings us on a fantasy that is both funny and thought provoking.


A dead man, Gordon Dermot Byrne
A woman, Jean Maura Lavelle
The Other Woman/The Stranger Sarah Coughlan
Gordon’s mother, Mrs Gottlieb Lua McIlraith
Gordon’s widow, Hermia Claudia Stokes O’Dwyer
Gordon’s brother, Dwight Alan Nuzum


Director Emma Jane Nulty
Stage Manager Emma Mulligan
ASM Siobhan Caskie
Stage Ninja Dermot Byrne
Sarah Coughlan
Emma Mulligan
Lighting Design Barry Donaldson
Set Design Emma Jane Nulty
Sound Design Emma Jane Nulty
Sound SFX Tom McMahon
Costume Design Mary Rigney
Graphic Design Philip Murphy
Set Construction Siobhan Caskie
Brendan Dunne
Emma Mulligan
Emma Jane Nulty
Alan Nuzum

About The Group

Founded in 1976, Dalkey Players is based in the town of Dalkey in south County Dublin. Meeting every Tuesday and Thursday, September to May, Dalkey Players enjoys producing one act and full length plays to perform in the Dalkey Town Hall and other local venues. We also run a ‘Play Club’ – a book club that reads scripts weekly.
Dalkey Players were the Runners Up in the One Act Finals 2001, 2005 and 2009.
Their production of ‘Jane Eyre’ adapted by Polly Teale was RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival Runner Up 2016.
Dalkey Players are delighted to be participating on the All Ireland Drama Circuit again this year.

Summary of Adjudicator’s Comments

The Adjudicator, Geoff O’Keeffe, began his comments by humorously telling the audience that he had received two phonecalls today – one from his mother and the other from his wife. Having taken them through the many questions posed by his mother, and the panic of his wife at not having a dress sorted for her visit to Athlone tomorrow night, he said “that’s only a bit of banter, now down to the serious stuff.”

Describing the playwright of ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ Sarah Ruhl as a “multi-award winning writer” who is one of the most influential observers of her generation, the Adjudicator said she had the ability to “make ordinary things become extraordinary.”

He said ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ is a play which is “a hugely theatrical and rich in form “ and the writer makes very telling observations about the way in which modern technology has the ability to leave many of us disconnected at a time when we have never been more connected.
However, he also described it as “a dark romantic comedy about the universality of love” and to work well it has to have “a beating heart” and the audience must “empathise with the actors on stage.”

“Sarah Ruhl said herself that she comes to the theatre to feel and think, so what did we feel and think here tonight?” Geoff O’Keeffe asked the sell-out audience in the Dean Crowe Theatre.
Turning to set design, the adjudicator said it was “appropriately minimalist” and “totally in tune with the writing” and he praised the way in which the locations were changed describing it as “so fluid, and so simple and with a beautiful aesthetic.”

The lighting was described as “rich and multi-faceted and quite beautiful to watch.” The sound was “whimsical and sad” and worked “in close harmony” with the overall production, said the adjudicator, adding that all the phone cues (and there were a lot of them) “came in perfectly on time.”

Costuming was also highly praised by the adjudicator, who said he especially liked the “prissy dress” worn by Jean. He added that the overall costuming of the production was “of a very high quality.”

A director cannot take on the staging of such a complex production as ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ without having “heart, vision, a mastery of stage craft and excellent direction skills” and the adjudicator said the director of this production, Emma Jane Nulty had all of these qualities “in spades.”

“This production had some exquisite touches” he said, and he was loud in his praise of the way in which the director had managed the transition from one scene to another, describing it as having been execute “with great thought.”

Referencing some of the stand out moments from the production, Geoff O’Keeffe paid particular tribute to the “magnificently constructed and wonderfully delivered monologue” by Gordon in the opening scene of the 2nd Act., and also the scene where Jean read out the pretend letter which Gordon had written to his wife, Hermia, describing it as “a moment of pure genius.”

He also mentioned the “beautiful cell phone ballet” and the perfectly on-cue moment when Gordon pretended to die again for Jean, and the “wonderful rapport” between Jean and Dwight. “This play must have a beating heart, and we found that heart tonight” said the adjudicator.
However, he said he did have “a but” and quickly went on to say it was “a very small but” in an otherwise “wonderful, wonderful work.” The position of the side lights gave rise to actors feeling “a little uncomfortable” when they were exiting the stage, and he said advised the production team to “just be careful.”

Turning to the individual actors, the adjudicator said Jean (played by Maura Lavelle) was “a bit mousy and prim” but there was “a beautiful quality to her playing of this demanding role” and her physicality was “most telling.” Describing her performance as “very brave” the adjudicator said she captured “the essence and heart” of her role.

The role of the ‘dead man’ Gordon (played by Dermot Byrne) was described as “acting of a very high order” by the adjudicator, who said there was “such strength” in the performance.
The role of the other woman/stranger (played by Sarah Coughlan) was delivered with “great attitude, poise and presence” while the role of Gordon’s mother, Mrs. Gottlieb (played by Lua Shine McIlraith) was described as being “slightly off centre” but was a very well-executed performance, particularly her singing of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

The adjudicator said the role of Gordon’s widow, Hermia (played by Claudia Stokes O’Dwyer) was played with “style and panache” and the actor had “really committed to her role” while he described Gordon’s brother, Dwight (played by Alan Nuzum) as “kind, considerate and nurturing” and said he brought “a great warmth” to his acting.

Overall, the adjudicator described the Dalkey Players production of ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ as “a beautifully designed presentation” with lighting that was “exquisitely rendered” and said “the truth had been found” in the production.

“He may have been a dead man, but Dalkey Players were very much alive tonight” concluded the adjudicator.