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A CurtainUp Review
Gone Missing

August 15th Update: Ever since reading Summer's enthusiastic review (as well as other critical raves) I've been determined not let this show be one to end up in my file of shows "gone missing" due to other duties. And so, I finally caught up with this edgy show that is besides being a stylish mix of experiences with all manner of lost things recounted via interviews, monologues and songs, often goes quite a bit deeper. I saw the show on a Tuesday night— a generally slow night — but the Barrow Street Theater at Greenwich House was packed, with just a single empty seat. Obviously the increased ticket prices now that the show has extended to January 8th, have not affected the demand for tickets. And the audience was exactly the mix of young people in their twenties and thirties, as well as older theater goers.

The show remains fresh and lively and the cast is intact-- except that Allison Weller, initially an understudy, has taken over the women played by Emily Ackerman. Since the songs are so integral to the success and cleverness of this production, I'm adding the song list below:
Gone Missing/Company
The Only Thing Missing is You/originally Emily Ackerman, now Alicia Weller
La Bodega/ Stephen Plunkett, Camien Baldet, Robbie Collier Sublett
Hide & Seek/ Coleen Wertman
Ich Traumt Du Kamst An Mich/Damian Baldet
Lost Horizon/ Robbie Collier Sublett
Etch a Sketch: Jennifer R. Morris & Company
—Elyse Sommer
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) — from the song "Etch a Sketch" on what it's like to be a person who's lost his or her memory.
Gone Missing Cast
(l-r) Robbie Collier Sublett, Emily Ackerman, Damian Baldet (front), Stephen Plunkett, Colleen Werthmann and Jennifer R. Morris in a scene from Gone Missing (Photo: Sheldon Noland)
We're all afraid of loosing things: our keys, our passports, our pets, our spouses, our minds. And so we try desperately to keep track of them, labeling hooks for our keys and drawers for our scissors, and leashing our pets and our spouses. But in spite of our best attempts, our labeling and leashing only cause us to loose them more quickly.

The same is true of the theater. As soon as we try to label or leash it, its value and spirit are lost. This is the philosophy on display in Gone Missing, the Civilians' play with music, musical play, cabaret, musical experience, experimental small-cast musical. Created in 2003 from interviews conducted by company members, this 70-minute one-act has been massaged into songs, monologues and coordinated trios, making for a vividly entertaining night out.

Avoiding the perils of some non-fictional theater which makes the point of labeling itself "documentary" and treating its material as if it were in a museum, Gone Missing is composed of research distilled into organically connected impressions of its rather broad subject—lost items. The "items" range from jewelry to a shoe; pets to a stuffed sock-animal; war to the lost island of Atlantis. The material initially tries to stick to inanimate objects but as people begin to talk about boyfriends, sanity and religion , it quickly becomes clear that most of our feelings of loss are not really about the items themselves.

Structurally, the play follows an emotional arc through a range of compelling musings on loss and brief interludes with fascinating characters: a French lesbian, a pet psychic, and a brusque technician who works with disposeaphobics™. Don't expect much of a plot since harnessing this material to a story line would make it seem much less profound and fresh than it actually is. Like the individually flash frozen portions at Trader Joes, the monologues, interwoven speeches and musical numbers each tell their own story, encapsulating a flavor that melds remarkably well with the whole. As this is an organic piece of work, it has spots that are not as polished as the pretty, waxed, and yet flavorless Red Delicious apples sold along Broadway, but that is part of its charm.

The songs are catchy and performed with panache. Varying stylistically from standard musical theater to German lieder, the numbers are played by a small band at the side of the stage, creating an intimate jazz-club ambiance remarkable given the size of the space. Stand out numbers include "Etch a Sketch,""Lost Horizon" and the titular "Gone Missing"—which is still stuck in my head.

The ensemble is obviously familiar with the material and one another, playing off the rhythms of the piece with accuracy and charm. The women, Emily Ackerman, Jennifer R. Morris, and Colleen Werthman are particularly memorable in a girl group number about breaking up called "I Gave It Away." Each has her own distinctive style, bringing particular life to her characters. Robbie Collier Sublett delivers the song "Lost Horizon" perfectly, giving the surprisingly humorous lyrics just the right amount of gravitas.

Accomplished with the perfect amount of tact and comedic timing, Stephen Plunkett's cop reappears throughout the evening. In the evening's most poignant moment, a security guard (performed spot on by Damian Baldet) at the World Trade Center recalls how he lost his Palm Pilot when he was directed to secure a baseball field for the secret service as the towers were coming down. Like many of the other recollections, this story succeeds in resonating with themes much deeper than materialistic loss.

It is this connection to universal ideals that makes Gone Missing feel more real than most naturalistic plays. It is also why any attempt to label the play falls horribly short of encapsulating its nature. It's a philosophical play about lost shoes and a cabaret with love songs, but ultimately it's just theater, blissfully free from the restrictions of definition.

Editor's Note: To read our review of the Civilian's last Off-Broadway production, see (I am) Nobody's Lunch.

Gone Missing
Created by The Civilians
Written and directed by Steve Cosson
Music and Lyrics by Michael Friedman
Company: Emily Ackerman, Damian Baldet,Jennifer R. Morris,Stephen Plunkett, Robbie Collier Sublett, Colleen Werthmann
Musicians: Andy Boroson (Piano), David Purcell (Drums), Steve Gilewski (Bass), Set Design: Takeshi Kata
Costume Design: Sarah Beers
Lighting Design: Thomas Dunn
Sound Design: Ken Travis
Choreographer: Jim Augustine
Music Director: Andy Boroson
Running Time: 70 minutes no intermission
Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow Street at 7th Ave. South, 212.239.6200,
From 6/14/07 to 8/05/07; opening 6/24/07
Extended to 9/15/07 and again to 1/06/08
Tuesday-Friday 7:30pm; Saturday 2:30 & 7:30pm; Sunday 5:00pm
Tickets: $20.00-$45.00
Reviewed by Summer Banks based on 6/20/07
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