You know something is wrong when you are watching a play and thinking that because of an early curtain you will be home in time to fold your laundry. Sad to say but that was my reaction to The Few.
Set in Idaho in 1999 in a trailer where QZ (Tasha Lawrence) is running a newspaper for interstate truckers made up mostly of personal ads. Four years ago, when she was working with her partner Bryan (Michael Laurence) and their best friend Jim, this was a paper of some heft. Bryan wrote real articles about real people, and they hit their make with the truckers. It is an invisible world in which these folks live. They knit together the country by hauling anything you can name from one corner of the land to another. Too much time is spent in isolation and seated. It gets to you.
Evidently it got to Jim who, four years ago, died in a highway accident. Bryan left town after that, without a word. Now he is back because he has nowhere else to go. In the intervening years QZ hired Jim’s nephew Matthew (Gideon Glick) who, although a teenager at the time, was also profoundly affected by Bryan’s writing.
With Bryan’s return, Matthew sees a chance to resurrect the paper. Bryan sees a chance to stay put with the woman he has always loved, but he is not interested in the old paper. QZ just feels cornered and trapped and threatened. She has survived for four years and the scab over the enormous wound that Bryan created is nearly healed. With his return, she sees that nothing was healed – just covered over.
So this is the situation. And it stays the situation for a good 90 minutes. There is some sturm and drang. People bare their souls and march about. There is even a fight involving a BB gun that pretty much trashes the place. One of the many odd elements of this play is that the mess is never cleaned up, even though the story lasts for several days. Hmnnnn. This is a sad story told with little spirit or dynamics. The style elements, however, were a treat. Answering machines, floppy disks, and the tiniest printer ever. Even the screen savers were date specific.
Truth be told, these are sad characters – and there is a similarity in POV to The Whale also by Mr. Hunter seen last season. In that play, however, we had a chance to care about the folks in the story. In The Few, the text, performances and direction conspire to make that impossible. Tasha Lawrence gives the play some fire, but she is not long onstage. Most of the time the action is between Laurence and Glick. This is too bad because Laurence’s acting choices are uninspired, and Glick’s are clichéd. The combination serves to deflate the evening.
All in all The Few became a few too many on the negative end of the scale for me.
The Few. By Samuel D. Hunter, Directed by Davis McCallum.
With Michael Laurence, Tasha Lawrence, Gideon Glick.
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.