Directed by Davis McCallum
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
“Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few.” – Winston Churchill
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…” – William Shakespeare, “Henry V”
Long distance truckers are indeed a band of brothers and sisters whose escapades on America’s interstate highways place them among the few. And consumers in the United States owe a great deal to these drivers (the term they prefer) who often put their lives in jeopardy by staying on the road for long hours without rest. The stress of the profession has often led to substance abuse. Long distance drivers Bryan (Michael Laurence), QZ (Tasha Lawrence), and their friend Jim started a newspaper “The Few” to reach out to truckers in and passing through Idaho, give them support, and give them a place to gather and find surcease.
The newspaper is successful until Jim dies unexpectedly and Bryan – in the midst of his bereavement – leaves QZ behind to manage her grief and to manage the newspaper on her own. The events surrounding Jim’s death while behind the wheel of his rig are carefully disclosed in Samuel D. Hunter’s “The Few” currently running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Mr. Hunter is skilled at providing exposition in increments and keeping the audience in suspense throughout the play. As “The Few” opens, Bryan is returning after his absence of four years to find that QZ has reinvented the newspaper as a personals weekly to keep it profitable and has hired Jim’s nineteen-year-old nephew Matthew (Gideon Glick) as her assistant.
The internal and external conflicts of QZ, Matthew, and Bryan are complicated and drive a suspenseful and challenging plot: suspenseful because the audience has to wait to find out exactly why Bryan has decided to return, why QZ is so unhappy about his return, and why Matthew is completely obsessed with Bryan; challenging because the answers confront the audience with absorbing and rich questions about the meaning of relationships, the dynamics of suicide, and the horrors of bullying and psychological abuse. Perhaps the most challenging question is one QZ asks near the end of the play: “When we were in high school, I never thought we would turn out to be such awful people. How did we turn out to be such awful people?”
To write more about this “awfulness” would divulge too much to future audience members. For this review, it is important to know that under Davis McCallum’s discerning and exacting direction, the ensemble cast proves that it is in the spaces that the promise of hope, reconciliation, and response exist. It is in the gaps, the absences where proto-hope germinates and flourishes. It is among the few and not the many that safety can be found. It is in the prospect of the Y2K grinding down of society’s core that humankind finds prospects of renewal. Y2K is a workable trope in “The Few” for the multitude of threats that face Bryan, QZ, and Matthew as they scramble for safety and avoid the fallout from their unexpected reunion.
Michael Laurence is hauntingly brilliant as Bryan who, at “the end of his rope,” hopes to reconcile with QZ after walking out on her four years prior to this visit. Bryan has lost his moorings, lost his sense of caring, and is mired in loneliness. Bryan “just doesn’t care anymore. [He] really, really just doesn’t care.”
Gideon Glick shines as the irrepressible Matthew who, after Jim’s death, has nowhere else to go but QZ’s place. Mr. Glick’s ability to embody Matthew’s vulnerability and neediness is extraordinary. After being rebuffed by Bryan, Matthew retorts, “No, actually, you don’t know. When I lost Jim, this paper was the only part of him that I had left. When QZ let me move in, and I started working here, I thought you’d eventually come back, and when you did, I thought you’d understand.” Gideon Glick perfectly channels Matthew’s fear of being alone and Matthew’s wounded spirit from being verbally abused by his homophobic father and ruthlessly bullied by his straight peers. Mr. Glick carefully exposes Matthew’s growth and eventual understanding that Bryan does understand and just wants Matthew to be able to stand on his own and trust his ego strength. Bryan tells Matthew, “The sooner you accept the fact that you are completely alone, the sooner you accept that everyone is completely alone, the better off you’ll be.” That difficult truth sets Matthew free.
Tasha Lawrence has the difficult task of portraying QZ whose life is interrupted by Bryan’s return and his insistence of renewing their relationship. Ms. Lawrence’s QZ is a well-rounded and dynamic character who, like Matthew, grows to understand the need for self-reliance and self-acceptance. In unexpected ways, Bryan’s return brings redemption and release to both QZ and Matthew. The unresolved issue is who will redeem Bryan. Will he have the ego strength to run the newspaper on his own or will he follow in Jim’s footsteps?
We never know – we humans, we few – how much of what we do, we say, or we hint at can mean to someone on the fringe of society, on the edge of self-destruction, in the midst of overwhelming despair. “The Few” addresses this important issue in creative and impressive ways. Be sure to see it before June 8. 2014.