Published Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:08 AM PDT



Poignant story in 'Missing'


"Something's Missing" is a lyrical, stunning new play about the tragedy of child abduction, as seen through the eyes of three devastated victims and one sociopathic perpetrator.

Produced by the Glendale Community College Theatre Arts Department, it's based on real-life case histories, all with a common thread the victims are left to struggle for their sanity from second to second for years on end, and often lose their battle, while the perpetrators of such horrendous crimes can spend their lifetimes coolly explaining their evil deeds away.


The play is classic in its organization as well as its reach three acts, one simple set per act, and each act is seven years apart. The specter of death lurks in the background every minute, crying, or cajoling, or excusing the inexcusable. The show is capped off with a classic "twist" at the end.

The lion's share of praise belongs to playwright Ken Gray, who could have chosen to spend the past few years with four more upbeat characters.

Instead, author Gray has been busy creating Ryan (Glendale Community College student Carlo Morelli), who once, when he was 7 years old, said yes when a stranger offered him a car ride home. His family members include his overwhelmed mother Barbara (Sarah Cross), Ryan's uncomprehending father (George Mackey) and child predator Preston Roberts (Davidjohn Morris) in a fabulously chilling and understated performance.

Neither the play, nor the actors, nor the intensely talented efforts of Director Lani Harris are well served by the Studio Theatre itself. Warm, dark with poor air-circulation, the small theater makes it difficult if not impossible to convincingly use what would otherwise be standard stage tricks.

A brief fist-fight needs to be played farther upstage to keep the illusion of violence, but here, none of the actors are ever more than 20 feet away from the audience. A locked box, one of the most important props in the play, can't be faked. It needs a real lock and a real key.

This production of "Something's Missing" is headed for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland this summer, and the producers are asking for donations to help defray costs. It deserves a wider audience. It would be hard to imagine a finer play being sent to represent the college experience in the United States.

If justice is served, "Something's Missing" will be at the Mark Taper Forum next season, end up on Broadway the following year and become a feature film. But there are no guarantees. As the shattered survivors of such horrendous tragedies will tell you, life isn't always fair.