The telephone is ringing

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LALT: Season opens with a bang

By Jennifer Garcia

When out enjoying a leisurely lunch, incessant cell phone ringing can be annoying.
It’s even worse when the cell phone won’t stop ringing and the owner won’t answer it. Jean (Kate Ramsey) found herself in that very situation in Los Alamos Little Theater’s presentation of “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” directed by Gwen Lewis and produced by David Schiferl.
Gordon (Eric Björklund) wouldn’t answer his phone. Not because he didn’t want to, but rather because he couldn’t. He was dead. He also happened to be sitting next to Jean in a café, while they were lunching. After unsuccessfully trying to talk to him, her response to silence the annoying contraption was to answer it. What happened after that was a bit strange.
The cell phone became a part of her life. It constantly rang and she constantly answered it, even though she did not know the people on the other end. No matter where she was or what she was doing, she answered the phone.
She quickly began arranging to meet some of the people she talked to — including Gordon’s family and mistress. She got a bit of insight into Gordon’s life, but also found herself concocting stories about who Gordon was. As a result of her tall tales, she changed the way Gordon’s family saw him — and in some cases, what they thought about him.
LALT’s season opener was far from disappointing. Though the set was simple and went through multiple changes during the show, it got the point across effectively. It went through a metamorphosis, then came full-circle — from a café to a funeral home, then to a living room and some version of “hell,” then back to a café.
The only complaint about the set would be when it was turned into “hell.” Though the backdrop was a bit creepy because of the eyeballs, strange images and choice of sick-green color, it was also a bit weird because one of the creatures on the wall resembled Squidward Tentacles from the children’s cartoon, “SpongeBob SquarePants.” It was hard to not imagine that figure playing the clarinet like Squidward. For anyone who’s ever seen the cartoon and heard Squidward’s playing, it’s not hard to imagine that he could exist in some form of “hell,” so if that’s what the set designer had in mind, then it was a success, but it’s probably not.
The costumes were fitting for the production. Gordon’s mother Mrs. Gottleib (Claire Davis) was a bit over-the-top, with her outrageous hats and furs. His wife Hermia was also a bit eccentric, especially with her brightly colored sweater and messy, wild up-do. Dwight, (Eric Björklund ) Gordon’s brother, wasn’t exactly a snazzy dresser, but his wardrobe fit his character. He wore spectacles, a blazer and a T-shirt underneath. His hairpiece was a bit chuckle-worthy, however. Jean was dressed “normally,” meaning there wasn’t anything outstanding about her attire.
Ramsey and Björklund’s performances were not only believable, but funny. Jean was mostly serious, as she tried her best to comfort Gordon’s family. However, when paired with Dwight, the situation quickly became amusing. Dwight was a bit clumsy and awkward. It seemed like he didn’t really know how to act in certain situations. Björklund did an excellent job in conveying that aspect of his character. He’s kind of nerdy, works at a stationery store and seems to be the opposite of Gordon. He does share a pearl of wisdom during a conversation with Jean, when they are talking about his line of work.
“Remembering requires paper,” he said. That quote was memorable.
Ramsey also did an excellent job in making Jean seem like a genuinely caring, compassionate person. After all, how many people would get so involved in a deceased stranger’s life, all for the sake of helping his family? Together, however, they were awkward, like a couple of teenagers on a first date.
Beck as Hermia, is serious at first. She seems a bit uptight, or perhaps it’s the grief that’s overtaken her, but she quickly unwinds once she has some liquor in her and starts to spill some of her marital secrets to the ever-surprised Jean. Talk about too much information! Jean’s head is filled with bits of the couple’s life that she seems less than thrilled to be hearing. Beck’s portrayal of a drunken, grieving widow is sometimes amusing, but always convincing.
Davis played Gordon’s overbearing, estranged mother. She does a very good job at portraying the over-the-top, meat-loving matriarch. She can be cold to Jean and sometimes says some weird things. For example, at one point she said to Jean, “you’re like a small casserole.” It was meant as a compliment, but didn’t really come out that way. Between her constant pining over Gordon and her regrets about how things ended — and could have been, you’re not sure whether you should feel sorry for her or tell her to shut up. And when she gives her odd compliments,
The performance never has a dull moment and keeps the audience engaged. There are some adult situations and language, so it’s not suitable for children. LALT opened its season with a bang. Don’t miss this performance.
“Dead Man’s Cell Phone” runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Oct. 5 and 6. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. They are available at CB Fox or at the door. For more information, visit lalt.org.