The art of losing, intoned Elizabeth Bishop, isn’t hard to master. But few could expect a more masterful comedy on the subject of lost-and-found than Gone Missing, the latest effort by insouciant docudramatists the Civilians. Based on copious, half-remembered interviews (Civilians procedure prohibits recording devices), the six-member company presents a collage of all that New Yorkers have mislaid or escaped. Items include keys, phones, rings, bodies, island countries. Interview subjects number a philosopher, a pet psychic, and an astonishingly macabre cop who concludes his description of a “Colombian necktie” (a torture in which one’s tongue is pulled out through one’s slit throat) with “You gotta laugh!”
Drug-lord retribution aside, there’s plenty that’s amusing. The troupe members and director Steven Cosson have a fine ear for striking phrases and oddball cadences. Witness the woman who gave all her possessions to a guru; she wearily confesses she’s done it all, “the sex, the drugs, the rock and roll, Europe, anarchy.” Equally droll are composer Michael Friedman’s lyrics, which rhyme “tabula rasa” with “Kinshasa” and veer off effortlessly into quite grammatical French, Spanish, and German. With such linguistic virtuosity, missing Missing cannot be endorsed.