An long-estranged couple, a mysterious waif looking at least half-a-decade younger than her eighteen years, and a Grimm’s Fairy Tale-style cabin in the woods add up to an unsatisfying mix of Unsolved Mysteries and The Twilight Zone in Skylight Theatre Company’s World Premiere production of Jennifer W. Rowland’s The Lost Child.

The cobwebs and disarray that greet Daniel (Peter James Smith) upon arrival in said cabin make it clear how much time has passed since his last visit, and when Ann (Addie Daddio) makes a surprise entrance soon after, it’s equally clear that the couple haven’t laid eyes on one another for an equally long time.

A different hair color-and-cut than she sported when last he saw her (“I was too recognizable”) suggest past public notoriety, more for Ann, who “really bore the brunt,” than for Daniel, but she claims to have “come through [to] the other side.”

Daniel’s ex has not arrived at the cabin empty handed. The 18th-birthday cake she’s brought along prompts the couple to reminisce about the perfect, beautiful, magical, force of nature that was their daughter.

“You have to get your mind around the idea that she may never come back,” Daniel reminds Ann just before finding his words disproven by the arrival of a girl looking hardly a day over eleven, her clothes tattered, her curly black hair a mess of twigs and leaves.

Behavior hardly likely for a child missing these past seven years (“Mommy, Daddy, I’m home!” she announces with an ebullient smile) provides the first clue that Angelica (Marilyn Fitoria) may not be who she claims to be, but the precocious, seemingly still prepubescent ragamuffin has only begun to reveal all she has up her twisted sleeve.

Fantasy/sci-fi fans may take to Rowland’s journey into the supernatural. I did not, and soap opera-style dialog (“You were very quick to check me into a loony bin right at the moment I needed you most!” “Because I didn’t know what else to do!”) doesn’t help.

Director Denise Blasor and her three actors do the best with the script they’ve been given, but I found my interest lagging early on, and an eleventh-hour journey into The Outer Limits left me not bewitched but bothered and bewildered.

At the very least, The Lost Child benefits from a terrifically atmospheric production design—Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s abandoned fairytale-forest cabin surrounded by ropelike overgrown tree branches, Jeff McLaughlin’s mood-enhancing lighting, Christopher Moscatiello’s otherworldly sound design mix of music and effects, and Sarah Figoten Wilson’s costumes, from Daniel and Ann’s frumpy looks to Angelica’s transformation from urchin to nymphet.

The Devil’s Wife is produced by Gary Grossman and Tony Abatemarco. Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx is associate producer.Christopher Hoffman is production stage manager. Casting is by Raul Clayton Staggs.

Ultimately, it wasn’t just Angelica who found herself astray in The Lost Child. This reviewer ended up adrift as well.

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Skylight Theatre, 1816 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
August 6, 2017
Photos: Ed Krieger

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