by Cory Conley · August 12, 2014
The first person we see on stage in The Lost Ones is not, to put it mildly, your typical cult leader. Her name is Judith, and as played by Susan McBrien, dressed in earth tones and a matronly blouse, she's about as threatening as Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher. She lives in a house in the middle of the woods with her daughter, Alex, and at the start of the play, she and Alex are eagerly awaiting the arrival of some other people. A homecoming, perhaps?
Yes, of a sort. They all arrive, and for a while, we're not sure why they're here. But we quickly find out who they are: Soo-Jin, who's been working at an orphanage; Zachary, who's developing a major "social media app"; Sarah, who drowns her anxiety in an avalanche of pills; and Ryan, full of repressed anger and engaged to a lovely British woman named Catherine, who we'll meet later. They're a weary, damaged crew, and when Alex mentions that she and Judith call them "The Lost Ones," you can see why.
It turns out they're all former members of the Next Wave, a sect founded by Judith that's based (somewhat vaguely) on love and harmony with nature. It's been more than a decade since they've all gotten together, and except for Alex, each of them has drifted into the modern world, with all of its hassles and dramas. Over the course of their stay at Judith's house, you can feel a certain pull on each of them, beckoning them back to the life they left.
The script was written by Reiko Goodwin and Evan Greenberg, and it's directed by Greenberg. According to a program note, the play was devised by the cast and creative team over a six-week period. The roles each seem a good fit for the actors inhabiting them, particularly Josh Atkinson as Zachary and Rachel Lomax as Sarah. Judith's charisma pours naturally out of McBrien, and this pays off when the story inevitably gets darker. The set design (uncredited in the program) boasts little more than wood sticks of various sizes, standing in for trees, and it's a neat trick.
Allegorically, The Lost Ones poses some sharp and timely questions about family, modernity, and the cycles of unhappiness that can entrap people after we leave home. The script could use some fine-tuning--- the Next Wave, for instance, feels more like an vague conceit than a palpable belief system. But the lonely quest of these Lost Ones is all too recognizable, and for the most part, it's compelling to watch.