J. Vincent Piluso 3:20 p.m., May 20
Jean never had a cell phone. You have to "be there," she says, constantly on call. She'd rather "disappear," where no one can reach her.
She's not used to ringing in her pocket. Maybe that's why she answers a call in a café, when a well-dressed man won't. He is Gordon Gottlieb. Or was, that is, since he's dead.
Jean always seeks positives, even at the Holocaust museum where she works. When she answers the phone, playwright Sarah Ruhl sends Jean through a technological looking-glass. She plummets into the equivalent of a photographic negative: mysterious, possibly evil Gordon; his glacially cold family (their last name means "God love" and doesn't apply to them), even an eerie afterlife.
The frame tale enables Ruhl to take potshots at what's becoming a culture of the trivial: cell phones, sound bites, twitters — mini-connections, Ruhl says, that actually disconnect. "When everyone has their cell phones on, no one is there. It's like we're all disappearing the more we're there."
At the end of Cell Phone, Gordon says, "Don't try to work it out; it's too complex." Meaning his story. But by then it's also true of the play. The way in is fascinating. As is the journey. But the conclusion has to tie loose ends with the logic that Ruhl has warped throughout. The play's much better at mystery than factual reality.
Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg has an affinity for Ruhl's sudden leaps and lurches. The Moxie production makes emotional sense even when the play doesn't.
As Jean, Jo Anne Glover charms throughout. Though a bland dresser (Jennifer Brawn Gittings's costumes are eloquent as always) and a mousy homebody, Glover's Jean becomes extraordinary (as with Gordon, the playwright starts with a tiny mistaken impression and explodes her into something quite otherwise). Glover makes Jean as driven as Joan of Arc, a silver lining in a perfect storm.
The ensemble work, a Moxie trademark, is fluid. And when Gordon finally gets to speak, Matt Thompson does some of his finest work. He's suave, charismatic, and no where near Jean's sound-bite image of a decent man.