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      LIKE IF YOUR PHONE IS ON YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE THERE by Barbara Biddison

      b5 31That's how Jean explains why she's never had a cell phone.  Strangely enough, she's the one who takes on the job of answering the DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE.  I was privileged to be present at a rehearsal a week before opening night, and director Gabe Hakvaag said something like, "We're still sorting things out."  That's to be expected because a lot happens in that last week.  Still, what I saw kept my total attention for two hours. 
      It began with an opening that I didn't expect, seven lovely dancers moving on stage under the direction of Taylor Nickerson.  And then the opening scene that I expected, in a cafe, a man (with his back to us) at one table and Jean at another getting really irritated because his cell phone keeps ringing and he doesn't answer!!  We can guess why he doesn't because we know the title of the play we have come to see.
      It's a wonderful cast.  As bizarre as the story seems to be, the characters are real and engaging.  Kadee Jay is Jean.  She really IS Jean and even has her own hair suitable for braiding as the script requires.  She's new to us, and the others are familiar HG actors playing roles unlike anything they have done before on our stage.  And Ellen Schaefer comes back to play the mother of the dead man.  The main thing about this cast for me is how they carry off really weird and unexpected behavior as though it were perfectly normal.  And they react to each others' strangeness in the same way.  Doesn't everyone love the thrill of touching embossed paper?  Or explain the need for laundromats in heaven?  This cast also handles "language" really well.  Yes, there are words and phrases that some will find offensive.  It comes across as being just the way these particular people use language  and what these particular people talk about in these circumstances.  At least that's how it seems to me. 
      I was quite enchanted by the dinner table scene.  It is at mother's house, and there are placecards.  But, the dead man's widow points out that Jean is sitting where the dead man (Gordon) used to sit.  And that is probably what gives Jean the hiccups  Post-hiccup, she distributes presents for all, and they are clearly from the cafe table where Gordon died.  Now at this dinner-table-meal, where the only food is rib-eye steak, Jean confesses that she is "sort of a vegetarian."  Enough of details lest I give away too much.
      You just have to sit back and go along for the ride.  And pay attention.  This play defies description of the usual kind.  I'll be seeing it again with an audience on opening night.  
      [All tickets must be reserved/paid for in advance. Opening night is this Friday! Go to HGP.booktix.com]

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