DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE
Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play, 2007
characters (in order of appearance):
1) a dead man, Gordon
2) a woman, Jean
3) the Other Woman/also plays the stranger. Has an accent.
4) Gordon’s widow, Hermia
5) Gordon’s mother, Mrs. Gottlieb
6) Gordon’s brother, Dwight
1) a moveable dining room table
2) a moveable cafe table
3) a cell phone
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all…It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page...My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life's end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?...The messenger on horseback had exactly the same possessions as the King, the first Minister of State, or the richest merchant in London. So with the three passengers shut up in the narrow compass of one lumbering old mail-coach; they were mysteries to one another, as complete as if each had been in his own coach and six, or his own coach and sixty, with the breadth of a county between him and the next.
--Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities, the passage Hermia tries to paraphrase
An almost empty cafe.
A dead man, Gordon,
sits on a chair with his back to us.
He doesn’t look all that dead.
At another table, a woman—Jean—
sits, drinking coffee, and writing a thank-you letter.
She has an insular quality,
as though she doesn’t want to take up space.
She looks over at the man.
She stares back at her coffee.
A cell phone rings.
It is coming from the dead man’s table.
It rings and rings.
The caller hangs up and calls again.
Jean looks over at him.
The phone keeps ringing.
Excuse me—are you going to get that?
No answer from the man.
Would you mind answering that?