The Lost and Found
nytheatre.com review by Matthew Trumbull
August 16, 2011
Hans Augustave is a young, charismatic actor of Haitian descent, and in his one-man show The Lost and Found, four characters possess the body of his protagonist, Devin, in a mysterious and magical room of lost objects. We don’t ever find out where this lost-and-found exists, but the newlywed Devin arrives there under pressure from his wife to find the camera containing their honeymoon pictures.
Devin has clearly been drawn to this lost-and-found by life-changing forces. Each object he examines opens a portal through which the missing owner’s soul takes over his body and lives a crucial episode from their past life. Wise lessons lie waiting for Devin when he comes back to himself upon the episode’s completion. Though no closer to finding the camera, he comes much closer to understanding what message the universe is sending him in the form of Damien the street thug’s cross necklace, recovering addict Dave’s messenger bag, and Dexter the social teen outcast’s eyeglasses. The first object he picks up, however, is a watch that belongs to Augustave’s best creation, Duvalier.
Mercurial and imperious, Duvalier could usurp the play’s entire 100-minute run time without one complaint from me. He vents hilarious malapropisms about the lateness of his daughter’s return home for the night, navigating the churning emotional waters of a longtime immigrant with an American-born teenager—one who has never felt the sacrifice demanded of those who navigated the far more deadly waters between Haiti and the Florida coast, searching for a better life for their children. Augustave brings vitality and love to this character, and his strengths as a performer—energy, infectious humor, complete commitment—manifest themselves right out of the gate when we meet Duvalier. His pride juxtaposes with his increasing vulnerability as he waits and waits. Duvalier comes across as beautifully human and contradictory, and the results are real and fascinating.
The next two characters are far less dimensional, though as gritty street archetypes they are tried-and-true. Damien is a down-and-out street thug who finds himself in the middle of a heist gone wrong. Dave is an addict whose life yo-yos downward through pot, cocaine, and heroin, and then back up to redemption and fame.
The final lost object owner to take Devin for a journey is Dexter, a sad-clown teenager who plays sax, gets bullied, and is never seen by his crush as anything more than a friend. Devin throws on Dexter’s lost eyeglasses, but Augustave never takes this character much deeper than an ordinary nerd impression: pinched, high-pitched voice, stooped posture, braying laugh, and fidgety hands. Dexter's sensitive story certainly contains the high drama of the evening, but the character’s falseness leaves the it feeling heavily overwrought.
Still, it remains clear that even in the weaker portions of the show, Augustave’s heart and soul are in every moment. He is dedicated to connecting with the audience, and with such great presence onstage, he makes the audience excited to see what he’ll do next (even when we can probably guess in the more predictable sections). Directors Tom McNeill and Scott Reagan have him keeping to a good pace, using the stage well, and shifting from character to character crisply and seamlessly. Augustave is a writer and performer whose evolution will be exciting to watch.