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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Barrow Street Theatre

By David Lefkowitz

I'm proud to say I came very well prepared to experience Gone Missing at the Barrow Street Theater. Two days before I saw the show, which deals with people misplacing and losing all sorts of items, I'd left a box of minidisks and a calendar book at a radio station. Plus, the week before, my wife accidentally left her keys (later returned) at a bed and breakfast in Philadelphia.

Absentmindedness, forgetfulness and just plain bad luck all figure into the stories told in Gone Missing, in which The Civilians theater company take a Vagina Monologues approach to the topic of disappearance. Based on interviews with people who'd lost everything from a kitten to a Gucci shoe, Gone Missing follows a cabaret format of short monologues and occasional comic (and often quite catchy) musical numbers.

Giving the piece some unity, besides its topic, is its buttoned-down look, courtesy of costumer Sarah Beers and director Steven Cosson. The cast first appear in grey suits, ties and glasses, moving almost robotically in a blue light with an underwater hue. Our first thoughts jump to David Byrne's spasmodic movements in the famous Once in a Lifetime video, but Gone Missing is actually more reminiscent of Bob Dylan's Theme Time satellite radio program. All the songs he plays are about a particular topic of the week, and they're interspersed with wry anecdotes and jokes on the same subject.


Most effective is the scene that groups a bittersweet trio of stories: one about an amiable pragmatist who loses his faithful dog, another about a young guy tracking down his cell phone, and the third about a mother whose child leaves her toy behind on a vacation - and what daddy goes through to find it. Also welcome are visits from a preternaturally jolly detective, who "can't help but laugh" at the various conditions in which he's discovered corpses.




The Civilians are a lively bunch, and if some of their personae border on stereotypical accents and types, well, the show is more about the universality of losing stuff than individual joys and heartbreaks. That pastiche arrangement leaves Gone Missing a touch hollow, and despite the attempt at a haunting final image - one by one, the cast hang up their suits and then leave, with only the clothes remaining - the show doesn't reach the kind of closure a more traditional narrative might.


However, the finale of my own story came with both irony and a happy ending. As I checked my train schedule and stood to exit the theater, a woman to my right pointed to the floor near my feet and said, "I think that's your Duane Reade card." Right she was.



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