A mishmash of anecdotes, East Coast-style songs and muddled Platonic philosophy forms the blandish meat of the Civilians’ drama “Gone Missing,” written and directed by Steven Cosson.
The six-person company, dressed in executive suit, shirt and tie, opened the title piece with a mixture of anecdote and song. The play quickly took on its distinctive New York theater style, with a slew of characters delivering their tragic tales of things gone missing. One woman related her story of a missing agnes b. scarf (who cares?); a Manhattan cop talked about beat life, missing corpses and decapitated heads (just plain gross); and a Brooklyn social worker discussed the inability of deranged unemployed people to throw away useless junk (like her monologue). The creators, who showed promising room for creativity, unfortunately squandered their chances for cohesion and interesting tales. What was intended to be a series of coalesced scenes ended up a mess of colorless drama. The skit that drew the most enthusiasm, strangely, was an acoustic German pop song played and sung by the three male actors.
“Gone Missing” portrayed the human obsession with things but never dug deep enough to shed light on why such infatuation exists. One New Yorker described his frantic adventure to find his missing, cherished cell phone. Using expletives repeatedly to gain some much-needed laughs, his rueful tale barely squeezed in the philosophical question regarding our attachment to gadgets and personal devices, yet didn’t push any further than a sob story of a man clearly slacking in the human interaction department. Like the other anecdotes, the story stands by itself and falls flat before drawing any original conclusions about our preoccupation with stuff, scratching the surface of the problem and declining to offer any solutions.
That said, the play’s objective was made explicitly clear with the last four lines of dialogue, ironically made by an offstage voice, who reminisced about his deceased wife, saying, “We grow attached to so many things, but, you know, it’s the little things that count.” The Civilians seem to be missing more than just this critic’s praise. They’re missing depth, originality and, ultimately, interesting drama.