Just saw Sarah Ruhl’s latest, Dead Man Cell Phone, at Steppenwolf. I loved the Edward Hopper-inspired staging (one of many suggestions that Ruhl makes in her script). The premise isn’t that earth-shattering—a woman answers a stranger’s cell phone and pieces together his life post-mortem—but Ruhl injects enough of her brand of whimsy and magical realism that you’re quickly steered beyond the predictable. OK, so some weird and pretty unlikely things happen (a delish-looking make-out session in a stationery store; a monologue from the grave), but all in all, I found it a worthy Friday night activity.
I’m still wondering about one thing: Do most people find Polly Noonan cute or annoying? For the uninitiated, Noonan is a New York-based actress who stars in many of Ruhl’s shows—and whose IMDB profile calls her “Girl on the Bus with the Gummi Bears” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
I think she’s great in the part, but when I said that around the office, a few of my co-workers looked at me in disbelief. (Ever wonder what we do around here at Chicago magazine? The answer: talk about plays; work; debate the merits of Brasserie Ruhlman versus Old Town Brasserie; work; make fun of lame PR mailings, which yesterday included a tiny wooden kayak that came with no supporting material, hence no explanation for its existence.)
In an informal poll of four editors, all of whom see a lot of plays, all four voted annoying. I still say cute. And I’m not usually a fan of cute things. The kayak, for example. It’s about to go in the trash.