Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Losers with winning ways

by Michael Sommers


NEW YORK -- A whimsical docu-show -- enlivened by some witty songs -- "Gone Missing" is all about losing things. Heirlooms. Keys. Pets. Virginity. Even your mind.

Drawn from interviews with actual New Yorkers by members of The Civilians, a company that creates original works based on real-life topics, "Gone Missing" opened on Sunday at the Barrow Street Theatre.

Mostly light in tone, the amusing text written and fleetly staged by Steven Cosson offers an enjoyable collage of conversational ex changes, monologues, anecdotes and musical numbers regarding disappeared people, possessions and what-have-you.

"Could I talk about losing a husband?" wonders one older woman. "Because I would certainly have a lot to say on that subject."

A cop reminiscing about the lost items he's found -- primarily body parts -- and an executive driving her friends nuts as she obsessively hunts for a missing Gucci pump are among the few characters who appear intermittently through the 75-minute proceed ings.

Much of the usually quirky material involves scatter-shot observations by more than two dozen individuals, from a pet psychic to a mom fondly recalling the time her husband unearthed their youngest daughter's sock doll from a dumpster.

Occasionally these matters are arranged by themes, such as a sequence when three women talk about jewelry that went astray.

A chat between a radio talk- show host and a writer about his latest book delves into less everyday matters like the lost continent of Atlantis and the power of nostal gia for long-gone things.

Dressed in virtually identical gray business suits and neckties, a six-member ensemble ably as sumes different accents and atti tudes for the individuals they por tray.

Composer Michael Friedman interlaces the show with nifty songs created in contrasting pop modes. "The Only Thing Missing Is You" is a mocking torch number wailed under a mirror ball. "Hide & Seek" is a Melanie-style ballad. "La Bodega" deals with a missing wallet in mariachi music.

Designer Takeshi Kata's simple backdrop and bubbling effects in Ken Travis' soundscape are no doubt derived from mentions in the text of the Sargasso Sea, where lost objects reportedly pop up among the weeds, driftwood and eels.

Although "Gone Missing" may not venture deeply enough into its fascinating subject, The Civilians' cool, classy interpretation of their findings still packs quite a bit of thoughtful entertainment.

Michael Sommers may be reached at msommers@starled ger.com or at (212) 790-4434.