Friday, June 13, 2014

'The Few': A Trio of Lost Souls Longing to Connect

Playwright Samuel D. Hunter is a tenderhearted herder of souls who are lost out there somewhere in the great vast empty spaces that still mark parts of the United States. This is most evident in his latest work, The Few, about a trio of lonely folks who teeter between anxious hopelessness and a vague and undefined sense of faith—inhabitants, as one of them puts it, of a “church without God.” 

In a solidly acted production at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, The Few takes place in a trailer that serves as home to a pennysaver newspaper catering to long-distance truckers. Its income is derived from classified personal ads that truckers call in and record on an answering machine; we get to hear a number of these during the course of the evening, and they too contribute to the mixed atmosphere of isolation and wistful longing that runs through the play.   

The enterprise is barely enough to pay the bills for its editor QZ (Tasha Lawrence) and her young assistant Matthew (Gideon Glick), for whom the trailer and the work provide a sanctuary from a world that has not been kind to him. The pair are managing to keep things afloat as best they can when in walks Bryan (Michael Laurence), the newspaper’s founder and still its owner, who skipped town four years earlier.  Now he is back, though the reason for his return remains nebulous, possibly even to him.

The characters give up their secrets slowly, and even when they do there are no surprise revelations, only moments where quiet truths come to the fore. What there is of tension derives from the question of the newspaper’s future. It began as a means of trying to create a sense of community among the readership, but it has gradually lost that intent in the name of making ends meet.

Matthew (terrifically portrayed by Mr. Glick as a twitchy bundle of social awkwardness) wants nothing more than to see the paper return to its founding principles. He keeps a copy of Bryan’s initial statement-of-purpose in his wallet and periodically pulls it out and reads aloud from it.  But Bryan has long since lost any such sense of purpose, and QZ—with whom Bryan was in a longstanding relationship when he skipped out—is pretty much ready to call it quits herself.

Hunter’s world of quirky characters may remind you of something conjured up by Sam Shepard, but where Shepard’s cache of weaponry includes serious ammo, Hunter literally offers up BBs, capable of laying down new wounds on top of old scars without destroying.  QZ, Bryan, and Matthew are richly drawn and richly acted by the cast, under the sure hand of director Davis McCallum. As they and the voices of the truckers on the answering machine seek to make connections, we can only wish them well.    

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