As producer Gary Grossman explains it, the mission of the Skylight Theatre Company is to present only world premieres. No revivals, no imports from London or New York, no old rehashes of plays from the 1930s. Just brand new plays to be introduced to Los Angeles and the world for the very first time.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Jennifer W. Rowland’s new play “The Lost Child,” which recently opened at the Skylight, is one of the latter. In fact, its three fine actors are better than the production warrants.
It opens with Daniel (Peter James Smith) returning alone to his off-the-grid cabin in the woods. The cabin is festooned on the outside with cobwebs dangling nearly to the ground. The inside is also a mess — papers scattered all over the floor, dishes and napkins lying on the floor of the kitchen, chairs and a coffee table overturned. And a tree branch has broken a window and thrust itself through the jagged hole it made.
It’s unclear how long Daniel’s been away, but shortly after he arrives his wife Ann (Addie Daddio) enters. From their reactions to each other you can surmise that they are estranged, if not actually divorced.
As it turns out, they have come to their old house to commemorate the 18th birthday of their daughter, who had disappeared some seven years earlier. The mystery of where she went and who had taken her has left her parents with permanent anguish and pain.
And so the parents talk about her and the amusing things she did as a child, laughing and enjoying the memories. But the conversation becomes more poignant as they drift into reminiscences of their marriage. At one point they had wanted to be alone together and resented their child. And Ann had become jealous of Daniel’s emotional attachment to the little girl. So when their daughter Angelica disappeared at 11, Ann questioned her own parenting and subsequently had a mental breakdown.
Suddenly there is a knock at the door and a sparkling 11-year-old skips in, claiming to be Angelica. Marilyn Fitoria plays the part brilliantly, moving back and forth between childishness and brattiness with innocent aplomb. Literally overnight, however, she grows into a rebellious teenager, confronting her parents with anger and bitterness. And finally she tells them where she’s been: living happily with “the changelings,” a species of former humans, “good people who live in the trees.”
All this is supposed to be some kind of fantasy-fairytale, ethereal and compelling. As I said earlier, the actors do a fine job and are well-directed by Denise Blasor. But Stephanie Kerley-Schwartz’s set is dreadful and depressing. It’s apparent that this is a no-budget production, but surely better accoutrements could have been acquired by roaming the streets and picking up furnishings that people had thrown out! The stage was cluttered with grubby furniture and ugly hangings in dismal dark colors. If this production is supposed to leave you contemplating the mystery and essence of fantasy, in addition to the question of appropriate parenting, it leaves you, unfortunately, with the feeling that you’ve just spent 85 minutes in a beat-up trailer with a miserably dysfunctional family. Let there be light!
“The Lost Child” will continue at the Skylight Theatre, 1816 1/2 North Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles Fridays at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7 through September 3. Call (213) 761-7061 for tickets.