I can’t say the loneliness of the long distance trucker is something I ever gave much thought. Not until seeing The Few, that is, a new play by Samuel D. Hunter at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. His previous work includes the excellent The Whale (at Playwrights Horizons last year). The Few, like The Whale, is about isolation. The show’s about a newspaper for truckers, and during the play callers occasionally leave messages with the text of their personal ads. These tend to be sad, sweet, funny, or odd little pleas for companionship; all these voicemails give you a good idea of just how isolated these people are. It’s set in 1999, and I wonder if nowadays these sort of trucker personal ads would be mostly online? (Google says yes.)
The voicemails are actually just part of the scenery as far as the characters are concerned. When Brian (Michael Laurence) returns after four years to the newspaper he created for truckers — an artsy sort of publication with essays and poems — he clashes with his ex-girlfriend QZ (Tasha Lawrence), now running the newspaper. Their conflict is about their failed relationship as well as the paper: she has morphed it into a more commercial endeavor (mostly consisting of personal ads) and hired a fellow misfit, 19-year old Matthew (Gideon Glick), who is dying to turn the newspaper back into the ambitious and artistic publication it once was.
These three people may not be truckers, but they are in reality just as isolated as the callers leaving personal ads on the answering machine. This is just the sort of story I like to see onstage: an intimate, thoughtful, compelling play about real life. All three actors are great. Mr. Glick in particular plays an irritating character — it’s an affected performance — but still managed to make me really feel for him. Towards the end I wanted to play dramaturg and quibble with some of Mr. Hunter’s plot and character choices, but ultimately none of my reservations really matter so much. What’s important is that this is the kind of show that sticks with you for awhile.
I’d actually forgotten I’d bought a ticket for The Few and nearly missed seeing it. I just happened to notice it on my calendar yesterday afternoon (“Whoa! I’m seeing a show tonight?”). Lucky for me, as this little play is more affecting than many of the big Broadway productions I’ve seen this year.