Dallas — This past weekend, the usually quiet fourth floor of the Dallas Public Library was transformed into a magical forest of quirky light bulbs, abundant greenery, and a charming cottage. Under the artistic direction of Danielle Georgiou, The Danielle Georgiou Dance Group launched into a study of erasure, lost/stolen things, and the emotional component of absence in Things Missing/Missed.
Created by Philip Hays, Melissa Flower, and Justin Locklear, Things Missing/Missed, seen at the Sunday matinee, centers on the story of a hermit living in a Maine forest who became an urban legend for stealing miscellaneous household items from the area’s residents. Wrapped inside this premise, the play explores T.S. Elliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” as a man and woman work through the tumultuous adventure of their partnership.
The Hermit first appears in the form of three individuals (William Acker, Danielle Georgiou, Meaghan Patterson) clothed in black hooded capes and dirt smeared faces. They crawl, skitter, and run across the stage with childlike curiosity. One performer mimes brushing her teeth as her counterparts sit at the table and practice balancing books, cups, and papers on their heads. Symbolizing an invisible entity, the Hermit is never acknowledged by the main couple despite its real impact.
Walking downstage to the retro microphone at one corner of the stage, the Woman (Gloria Benavides) carefully applies a deep red lipstick with calculated precision. Her dedication to this simple action is mesmerizing—it appears to be a sort of sacred ritual that gives her the strength to face the day. She is joined by the Man (Matthew Clark) who sits at the quaint table sipping coffee and reading. His cheery disposition as he recounts his day contrasts the Woman’s lagging steps, slouched shoulders, and concern for her missing socks.
The conversation escalates until their heat leads them to manifest this passion in “the finger dance.” Suddenly “The Time of My Life” plays and the couple recreates the iconic final scene from Dirty Dancing with their fingers on the back of the Hermit. While their fingers strut and spin articulately, a moment of comedy shifts into a glimpse of intimacy as they gaze intently into their partner’s eyes. This fixed stare brings their faces closer and closer together until Clark abruptly breaks from the moment and falls back into his busy chatter regarding his troubles.
A disappointed Benavides returns to the stability of her lipstick and uses its application to steady herself. However the Woman holds onto her romantic feelings as she drifts off to sleep and the Hermits enter her dream. Embodying the couple’s finger work, two of the Hermits engage in a sultry duet in the shadows. With choreography by Colby Calhoun, the two dark figures leave their quirky playfulness behind and plunge into a luscious waltz step that moves in and out of post-modern rolls to the floor, reaches, and weighted falls. The duet unveils an authentic emotional component of the couple’s relationship.
Clark and Benavides resume domestic activities and continue to complain about missing items—the Man is now missing his new pants and the Woman still cannot find her socks. Despite their attempts to maintain a happy, healthy home, their relationship now retains an underlying tension—a tension brought on by the chaos of their lives and the things they’ve missed. Eventually the couple’s relationship erupts in a climactic fight. The Hermits actualize their demise by bumping into each other, kicking their legs and falling to the ground, vibrating their extremities and creeping in the background.
Each one then begins to destroy the stage—throwing Cheetos into the audience, ripping the tape from the floor, tearing the snowflakes from the ceiling, shredding paper, tossing chairs, and rolling away the table. Clark repeats his monologue from the beginning of the play with no emotions amid the Hermit’s lawless freedom. He opens and closes a slew of umbrellas as they’re tossed into the madness of the stage. Benavides walks through the mess assisting with the open, close, open, close of umbrellas and mocks her partner’s story. The Hermits continue to play in the clutter as the Woman collects items from the pandemonium and transforms into her own version of a hermit.
Overflowing with strange surprises, hilarious exchanges, and painfully authentic physical connections, Things Missing/Missed is a stunning embodiment of absence, emptiness, and freedom. Through the characters, the audience is captivated in the emotional struggle of being missed, missing someone/something, and the struggle to fill that need. The genius inclusion of the three Hermit characters as both a moving set and storytellers created a rich, immersive experience.