Wednesday, February 28, 2024


 By Ruth Ross

It’s a well-known truism of modern life: We all lose things—keys, eyeglasses, cellphone, socks, pets. Heck, I once lost a daughter at Disneyworld!

Composed from verbatim interviews with real-life New Yorkers by The Civilians, an acclaimed New York-based company, Gone Missing, Vivid Stage’s current production, is a wry and whimsical documentary musical of loss.

Their collection of personal accounts of things “gone missing” —everything from keys, personal identification and a Gucci pump to family heirlooms, your dog and your mind—is a collection of stories and songs recounting the ways we deal with loss in our lives. Yes, we often bemoan the loss of objects, but as one cast member puts it, “…sorry honey, after you’ve lost as many people as I have, you don’t care about material things.”

Vivid Stage’s troupe of talented actors performs quirky mini dramas featuring 30 characters, intertwining these stories of lost objects with tales from some unusual “finders,” from a retired NYPD cop to a pet psychic. With eclectic and witty songs by Michael Friedman, Gone Missing is about the little things we lose that can loom so large in our lives! That composer Michael Friedman died from AIDS-related complications in 2017 makes this talk of loss and nostalgia even more poignant.

Notice that I called Gone Missing a “musical,” but it’s more a comic revue, informally presented and fun, perfect for the intimate theater in the Oakes Center. The actors perform the vignettes with energy and verve, switching from one character to another by exiting through one doorway, only to appear a bit later in another! They present a series of monologues—some droll, some tragic, some cute, some alarming—and several public radio-style segments, accompanied by songs that range from bossa nova to Burt Bacharach to mariachi.

Without my giving too much away, some performances deserve to be cited. Becca Landis McLarty (left, with Laura Ekstrand and Melody Stubbs) is sublime as the French woman who has lost her sister’s Agnès B scarf, and she nails a Brooklyn and what sounds like a Chicago accent in several other sketches. Scott McGowan has great fun as Dr. Palinurus, an expert on loss who expounds, interminably, on the loss of the mythical city of Atlantis, linking it to the Greek idea of nostalgia, or the suffering (algia) evoked by the desire to return to one’s homeland (nostos). The idea is brought up several times, most notably in a paean to “Lost Horizons,” linking it to the various items lost by the characters in the skits.

McGowan and Laura Ekstrand are spot on as very senior citizens who, finding their “stuff” missing, blame it on their aides.

Thomas Vorsteg is terrific singing in fluent Spanish about “La Bodega,” bemoaning the loss of his wallet containing a photo of his love; he’s equally good as a policeman on DOA duty retrieving a naked old lady and later, a gangster found wearing a “Colombian necktie”—a gruesome way Colombian warlords kill their victims. (Left: Vorsteg, Clark Carmichael and Scott McGowan.)

Melody Stubbs is especially droll in an extended anecdote about the loss of one expensive Gucci pump; she harasses the staff at P.S. 122, where she last appeared, enlists her friends in the search and posts flyers and maps all over the area. Her earnestness is infectious; we find ourselves rooting for her to recover her shoe! 

And Clark Carmichael is especially good extolling “Lost Horizons,” with a reference to classic films, and in the closing monologue where he discusses Simonides, the “inventor” of memory, coming to the conclusion that we keep things we’ve lost—pets, treasured photographs, rings, cellphones, dolls, husbands, even teeth—by recollecting them.

This final monologue is the main theme of Gone Missing. As Dr. Paulinus remarks, “Nostalgia is just how you feel about the things you lose,” and “Sometimes we need to lose something before we can enjoy it.” Remember that next time you’re running around looking for your car keys—or your cool, your sense of humor, even your mind!

Gone Missing will be performed at the Oakes Center, 120 Morris Ave., Summit, through March 3. For information and tickets, visit online.