It all began with that ringing and calling. Jean, the woman and the dead man Gordon’s story. Here, in Sarah Ruhl’s play Dead Man’s Cellphone, the cell phone links the live and the dead. As Jean gets incoming calls that ring Gordon’s phone, she is connected to his family and acquaintances. Realizing that there are some misunderstandings between Gordon and his family members, she solves the problems one by one by acting as Gordon’s messenger. For example, although Gordon did not leave any presents for his family members before he died, she prepares presents for his mother, wife and brother and says Gordon left them before dying. By doing so, Jean invigorates Gordon’s relationship with the family members. When she meets Gordon later in heaven, they fall in love.
In this “Era of Smart phones,” where people are raising concerns about too much use of smart phones, instead of merely dealing with the negative aspects, Ruhl captures the paradox of cell phone’s ability to both unite and isolate human relationships.
I remember in the lecture, the professor told us that she thinks a cellphone is like an umbrella because it both isolates and unites people. On a rainy day, when everybody is holding umbrellas covering their faces and walking along the city streets, all those umbrellas look like tiny islands that separate passersby. On the other hand, however, we cannot go outside of our places if there is no umbrella, which means it is also a something that connect individuals to the world. The umbrella protects us from the rain and makes us willing to get out to places on a rainy day.
Like an umbrella, a cell phone connects us to our loved ones, society and world despite its shortcomings. Whether it is paradoxical depends on us users.