The comedy, drama or is it a satire, Dead Man’s Cellphone ends this weekend at the Mesquite Community Theatre. Shows on Friday and Saturday start at 7 p.m. and will be the last production for the season by the Virgin Valley Theatre Group.
Director Teri Nehrenz completes her fourth play as director, having previously led Fly Willie, My Three Angels and Love Letters. Theater patrons will remember Nehrenz for her most recent performance as the lead in Agnes of God.
“What makes directing fun is having a great team, both actors and stage crew,” said Nehrenz. And everyone has worked hard, “We started rehearsing over two months ago, and have worked five and six days a week to bring this production to Mesquite,” said Nehrenz.
The cast includes Kathy Sierra, who plays the strangely crying Mrs. Gottlieb. “We worked on her cry for a long time before she stopped being embarrassed,” Nehrenz said. Sierra most recently directed the female version of The Odd Couple but this play is her first as an actor. In real life Sierra is an author of historical romance novels that are sold on Amazon.
Patty Amore is the second first-time actor in the play. Her previous on-stage experience was a radio production of an Alfred Hitchcock play, where she had the script in front of her. “This time she had to memorize the lines, which was hard because she has stage fright,” said director Nehrenz. Her character is a drunken wife of the title dead body. Nehrenz has nothing but compliments, “She did the show as a favor to me and I was pleasantly surprised.”
The “mystery woman” of the production is Joan Pelliccio. She has been in several productions, and according to Nehrenz “she has the terrific ability to do character accents.” Pelliccio has been in Fly Willie and Nana’s Naughty Knickers. Pelliccio in real life came to Mesquite from New Jersey where she was a marketing manager for Pepsico. While only in Mesquite for a few years Pelliccio has become very active in the theater group.
Gary Williams has the role of Dwight, the dead man’s brother. Williams was most recently the lead in Anything Goes which was a musical and totally different from the current production. Williams has perhaps the best scene in the play when he eats a bowl of popcorn for seemingly hours and somehow delivers his lines with a full mouth. He is a very busy man, involved with the Mesquite Toes and Sun City Sounds. “He is such a laid back and gentle person, but when he gets going he is really funny and has perfect timing for comedy,” says Nehrenz.
The female lead of the play is Jenna Grubb, who plays the young girl who discovers the dead man in a coffee shop. Her character answers the dead man’s cell phone and off goes the play in several directions. Grubb has been involved in theater since she was 11 years old in Montana. For a young 25 years, Grubb has been active in many plays and productions with the Virgin Valley Theater Group. “Jenna is simply one of the best actors in Mesquite,” according to Nehrenz. She is also engaged to understudy Matt McDonald. In real life Grubb is a nanny.
The dead man who somehow comes back to life in the play is actor Paul Benedict. He is well known in the community for doing readings at the Art Gallery and for narration at the 1000 Flags Over Mesquite ceremonies. “Paul did so well in a Day at Emma’s that I wanted to have him in other productions,” director Nehrenz said. Benedict is very involved with the Exchange Club in Mesquite and was in the publishing industry in real life. Benedict also works at CappTech repairing computers. Benedict has a great speaking voice and “brings to life” the part of Gordon, the dead man with a ringing cellphone. Benedict also arranged all the audio and video portions of the show.
The understudies for the production are Chad Calmelat who has appeared in several productions since joining the theater group three years ago. Nehrenz recalls when Calmelat played three different parts in “Three Murders and its only Monday.” In real life Calmelat is a security guard at the Eureka Resort and Casino.
The second understudy is Matt McDonald who has a degree in theater as well as being engaged to actor Jenna Grubb. Director Nehrenz calls McDonald “very very good,” and notes that he is tall enough to cover the stage “in three strides.” McDonald also works as assistant stage manager.
Nehrenz concludes her review of the play with thanks to the all the stage hands and production people who make the play possible by working behind the scenes. Janet McDonald is stage manager, Pam Stadler, and Mike and Susan Shultz are stage crew, Rebecca Jones is the dresser, Christopher Finnegan does lighting, Rick McDonald is handling sound for the first time, Tammi O’Brian is the costumer and Rebecca Jones the dresser.
The last performance on Saturday will also be uncensored according to Nehrenz. “The play is rated R in its original version and we will be performing as author Sarah Ruhl wrote the script.” Ruhl was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and the winner of a McArthur “Genius Grant.”
Dead Man Cell Phone final performances are May 20 and 21 at the Mesquite Community Theatre, 150 N. Yucca St. with show times at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $15 per person.