Volume 20 Issue 8 | July 6 - 12, 2007


Sheldon Noland

The cast of “Gone Missing,” Steve Cosson’s ingenious play that has found its way to the Barrow Street Theatre.

A jewel in the lost and found department

By Jerry Tallmer

Hey, I lost my horizon. 

No, I take that back. A horizon is just about the only thing not lost in the fascinatingly quirky “Gone Missing” that Steven Cosson and his gifted players, The Civilians, have brought for our delectation to the Barrow Street Theatre, not long ago known as Greenwich House. I guess that handle is now lost too.

Here are a few of the things that are lost in “Gone Missing,” that is, are talked about by the actors who are playing the people they interviewed who lost something:

A Korean kitten named Nabi.

An umbrella, lost by a girl who loses her romance with a fella as a result of the loss of the umbrella.

A number of corpses, some with eels sliding in and out of them.

A job.
A virginity.
A silver ring.
A sapphire ring.
A pearl ring.
A dog named Boone.
A little sock doll named Sniffle.
A cell phone.
A basic black Gucci pump.
A World Trade Center.

Some of these things are found, sooner or later. Some are never found.

Anyone who hangs around actors, stage actors in particular, has heard them from time to time refer to someone as “a civilian.” It just means somebody who is not an actor — or more yet, not in show business. Since Steve Cosson and his friends, mostly from drama school at UC San Diego, were going to start a research-based theater company, back in July of 2001, the research meaning interviews on one given topic or another with, well, civilians, that seemed as good a name as any for the troupe as a whole.

Then came the question: What given topic?

An actress named Christina Kirk piped up with: “What about lost and found stuff?” This was in July 2001, remember.

“I wrote it down in my notebook and didn’t think about it much.” Says Cosson. “ But a year later — a year after 9/11/2001 — “it seemed in an oblique way to be a question about something very big.”

The Civilians fanned out — 10 or 12 of them, interviewing who’d ever stand still to be interviewed. Word went out on the Internet and by e-mail. A writer named Peter Morris contributed a fake interview with a “Dr. Palinurus” about the Lost Continent of Atlantis — the only fictional thing in the show. The saga of the Lost Black Gucci Pump came straight off Steve Cosson’s home-phone voice mail — a series of increasingly exigent calls from his dear friend Laura.

Reality comes back to earth with the verbal painting by a retired New York City cop of some hard, not to say horrifying, truths about corpses and tortures; and then, back to square one, with recall of the falling buildings of 9/11 by a dese-and-dose World Trade Center security guard.

“That cop,” says Cosson, “is one of the most generous, friendly, upbeat guys you’ll ever meet. Spent much of his career dealing with people who were trying to jump off bridges. How to deal with all this shit life presents to you. He’s coming to the show this week.”

The actor/interviewers, says Cosson, did not take notes nor did they tape anything. They remembered, and a little later wrote it down — rather like Truman Capote, or so he claimed, ducking behind a tree in Kansas to scribble down what he’d just been hearing about the all-American (and all-dead) Clutter family.

There were only two rules, says director Cosson: 1) No missing persons; 2) Whatever it was, it had to actually go missing — “which is to say, if your house burned down and you lost everything, that didn’t count.”

Steven Cosson, whose father is a lawyer and whose mother teaches meditation, was born in the environs of Washington in August of 1968, four months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., “when you could see D.C. burning from windows in Alexandria, Virginia.” His parents were going to name the baby Alexander, but also in August the Russian tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia and took democratic leader Alexander Dubcek prisoner — “so my parents thought ‘Alexander’ might be a bad idea.”

Cosson, a Dartmouth College and UCSD graduate, is a serious, amiable, straightforward man of theater. He has an ongoing relationship with somebody — a civilian, I gather — but lives alone in Brooklyn and hasn’t lost his way home or his sense of humor.

GONE MISSING. Directed and written by Steven Cosson and Peter Morris. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman. With Emily Ackerman, Damian Baldet, Jennifer R. Morris, Stephen Plunkett, Robbie Collier Sublett, and Colleen Werthmann. Through August 5 at the Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow Street, (212) 239-6200 or

Downtown Express is published by Community Media LLC. 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 229-1890 | Fax: (212) 229-2790 | Advertising: 646-452-2465 | © 2007 Community Media, LLC

Written permission of the publisher must be obtainedbefore any of the contents of this newspaper, in whole or in part, can be reproduced or redistributed.