Thursday, July 5, 2007

Find the Time to Uncover Gone Missing

Who among us hasn't agonized over that misplaced set of keys or a dimly remember memento, or been stunned by a seemingly random object found on the street or in some other place? Such experiences are at the heart of The Civilians' Gone Missing a richly satisfying tapestry of stories and songs about things that can be both lost and found.

As with many of their previous productions, "Missing" has been developed from interviews, and the six-member company, all clad in nondescript gray suits, does a grand job of shifting between characters of widely varying ages and sexes. Director and writer Steven Cosson, with songwriter Michael Friedman, examines not only things that can be lost (a trio of women describing rings that each of them has lost is, by turns, comic and touching), but also less tangible items. A song sung in Spanish and later in English demonstrates how meaning, but also feeling, can be lost in translation. As "Missing" nears its conclusion, two older women describe items they've lost – as they speak, it's hard not to be pricked by the sense of yet another sort of loss – that of one's youth, particularly when framed by Friedman's song "Etch A Sketch":

I'm an Etch a Sketch (but now I'm all shook up)
I'm a piece of wax (but now the imprint's lost).

The moment is indicative of the duality of tones that "Missing" often navigates with grace under Cosson's careful direction

Shrewdly though, he allows much of the piece to become simply a rollicking rollercoaster where theatergoers ricochet with the stories. A cop who revels in the gory details of DOAs he finds proves to be particularly uproarious with each appearance. Equally funny is a recreated radio call-in show with a self-appointed expert on nostalgia and our yearning for long-lost times. As he waxes eloquent on Atlantis (the – er – "lost continent") and is buffeted by inane interjections from the radio show host – it's nearly impossible to not laugh.

Other monologues in the piece come bizarrely and yet somehow hilariously from a Nazi-like guru who helps people rid themselves of clutter and a self-professed pet psychic, proving that the diversity of stories that the group has uncovered to create "Gone Missing" might be the most interesting "find" in this thoroughly delightful show.