Charles Mee writes with heart on sleeve, even when it’s not his heart. Famous for sampling eclectic sources ancient and modern, Mee’s Gone stirs up another unlikely stew of passionate texts, including Sophocles, Allen Ginsberg, and Kelly Clarkson. (A rollicking “Since U Been Gone” dance break is just one of the many variations on the title.) Also included are the everyday testaments of anonymous bloggers and even highlights from Mee’s own plays. The dominant theme throughout this montage of romantic mourning is not so much death as loss. As Proust, a prominent character, might have put it, Gone explores our doomed struggle to hang onto temps perdu.
Shot through with tangible pain, Gone may be the most deeply felt piece to date by this always effusive yet sometimes over-articulate dramatist. Taking his cue from Proust’s famous madeleine, he lets flow trademark cascades of sensual verbiage. Some digressions—like an obituary for the genius behind Stove Top stuffing—stretched my patience. But the digressions are the play, and many (John Updike looking back at his naive former self, Thomas Bernhard lamenting how “We shun those who bear the mark of death”) are tinged with sublime sadness.
Director Ken Watt rises to the challenge of Mee’s typically bare-bones script with originality and assurance, filling the synapses in and around the speeches with a parallel narrative for his talented ensemble of six. The set’s drab yet elegantly spare warehouse of cardboard file-boxes is periodically enlivened by a rich soundscape and ghostly multimedia. Most importantly, Watt gets the giddy playfulness that underlies even Mee’s most classicist writing. The sight of a lip-synching Proust wanking to the country stylings of Buddy Jewell’s “So Gone” will be a remembrance of things past for years to come.