San Diego, CA---Saturday night might be the loneliest night of the week, so says Frank Sinatra in the ballad of the same name he so famously recorded. Loneness comes in a variety of packages. One can be lonely in a crowded room or with friends or as most might picture, just alone. It’s more a state of mind oft times rather than geography.
Samuel D. Hunter’s world premiere of “The Few”, with Davis McCallum directing, now on the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Stage through Oct. 27th, is about loneliness, alienation and anger.
Four years ago Bryan (Michael Laurence) walked out of the newspaper “The Few” that he and his partner, friend, long haul trucking buddy Jim, who is now deceased, and QZ ((Eva Kaminsky), ran together. QZ left her job at the local gas station (it is 1999 and they live in Northeast Idaho) to help out and later became an integral part of the entire operation.
The men were tired of the long hall runs and became immune to the faces, places and truck stops so vital to truckers. They were just plain ‘over it’. Eventually they stopped going to motels, ended up avoiding people and slept in the cabs of their trucks.
Bryan got out of the trucking industry, bought a building (family inheritance) and started up a little newspaper that pumped out stories written exclusively for “The Few”. But more than publishing a paper, Bryan saw to it that is was also gathering place for trucker friends to rest their weary bones, throw back a few and chew the fat.
Eventually interesting stories emerged about long distant marriages, gas prices, etc. The stories they shared reflected their life style and the toll it took on them from being on the road eighteen or more hours a day and away from those they loved. Jim called the gatherings “church without God”.
Both Bryan and Jim thought it would be a cool idea to write down the stories the truckers shared. Jim continued trucking, Bryan and QZ ran the paper. According to Bryan, it was their happiest time together ever. Jim would drop off copies of the paper along the truck stops and it was a way truckers could keep in touch with one another. “Little beacons scattered along the interstate”.
QZ now runs the paper. She and Bryan were a hot item for a time. When he walked out of the relationship (without an explanation or a ‘Goodbye’) the paper, which he left in debt of over ten thousand dollars, and everything else in his life, he fell off the face of the earth.
Now he’s back. QZ isn’t having any of it. How pissed off is she? Well in the first ten minutes or so of dialogue, she points a finger at him and shouts “Shut Up!” every time he opens his mouth to say something, or not.
Somewhere in between ‘shut up’s’ we do manage to learn that he is tired of doing whatever it was that he was doing and has no place to go. He does, after all, still own the paper and building. And yes, he was willing (after QZ pushed papers around and scowled long enough) to help to do some kind of drop-offs as payment for him to bunk out behind the office; but not for long.
Did I mention that “The Few” has been, since Bryan left, more of a lonely hears publication for lonely truckers and fragmented souls? The voices on the always interrupting answering machine tells more about these isolated folks out there who are calling in to tell their stories, which they expect to be published, than do Hunter’s characters. Bryan, et al need help, but not from each other.
A third character thrown into this mix is Matthew (Gideon Glick). He is Jim's nephew who he comes from an abusive home and QZ has given him a place to work and sleep (in her trailer) as well as help her out since Bryan left. At some point in his life he was connected to Jim and still morning the loss.
His job at the paper puts him closer to Jim’s memory and affords him the opportunity to read year’s old past articles (strewn about with other clutter on Dane Laffery’s cramped set and lit effectively by Matt Frey) that Bryan wrote, and in turn that he now admires. Bryan could care less. We never really learn just what Bryan does care about.
Hunter’s narrative is static and never moves far from angry to angrier. Are they lonely? Yes. Are they angry? So it appears. Do they feel alienated? That’s obvious. If there are revelations that I missed you, the next audience member will have to draw your own conclusions and find them. Too many questions go unanswered, no light at the end of the tunnel and seemingly no redemption in “The Few” so that thinking too much about these folks falls to zero on the ‘why should I care’ Richter scale.
We are left to assume why Bryan left, why QZ stayed, and why Matthew is still sticking around. I don't want to be in that position. Supposedly Matthew is of legal age to be on his own although his character’s actions and comments reflect more in the early teen years of thinking rather than the 19 years he is said to be, which in one case was quite bizarre.
Matthew, whose innocence was truly cut short at an early age, has much to say but unfortunately Glick was barely audible from my vantage point in the theatre. Hopefully that will improve over the next weeks.
Michael Laurence’s Bryan barely manages to sputter out a few disjointed sentences and is continually interrupted by QZ whom we know is madder than hell and “isn’t going to take it any more!” He just doesn’t seem to have the energy left to contradict her. One wonders if he really cares anymore about anything. Of the three characters, Laurence’s Bryan is the most vulnerable and believable; his body language and look tells it all.
Kaminsky’s QZ really is given no place to go (by the playwright) after the initial “Shut Up”, which she managed well and with conviction. I don’t know that I’ve been around anyone quite as angry in life as is she. I get it, but her actions at the end don’t jive with the rest of her story. However if that’s part of who she is, she does it well.
My brother and nephew were/are truckers. Both drove locally and long distances. I think I know a little about how difficult the work was and still is. And yes, it is a lonely profession and does tend to wear you down. When not driving, there is work to be done on the truck and repairs are costly. It’s pretty time consuming and lonely.
It ruined my brother’s health and almost broke my nephew financially. It was pretty much all they knew and wanted to do and both can share stories if asked. I never did.
Both are pretty outgoing and will talk at a moments notice. Bryan might learn a few things from them. Now whether or not QZ could take lessons from their spouses is another thing. I would leave that one alone. One lesson I did learn early on and passed on to my own girls was that ‘Shut Up’ was not an option in our house.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Oct. 27th
Organization: The Old Globe Theatre
Production Type: Comedy
Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
Ticket Prices: Start at $29.00
Venue: Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre