Watching Gideon Glick’s expressive face in The Few– elated one moment, defeated the next, then adoring, angry, hurt, resigned — is one key to unlocking the mystery of how this Play-PerView’s no-frills Zoom reading of Samuel D. Hunter’s 2014 Off-Broadway play (available online through July 16), can be so entertaining and amusing, even though its story is grim, its pacing is slow, and its three characters are facing loneliness, fighting despair, and worried about the coming apocalypse.
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It is 1999, and the apocalypse that QZ (Tasha Lawrence), expresses concern about is the Y2K bug. “Will planes fall out of the sky? Will there be worldwide blackouts?”At the very least, it will “certainly plunge us into a world-wide depression”
Writing The Few more than a decade after Y2K turned out to be a non-event, Hunter is surely having a moment of fun. But he is also, I think, making a point, one that resonates even during what feels like the actual apocalypse to which we’ve been plunged in 2020: Our fears are at least as apocalyptic as anything we’re facing in the outside world, and feel all the more real because of our isolation.
The Few, available online through July 16, is ostensibly the story of Bryan (Michael Laurence), who with his lover QZ and their friend Jim co-founded a newspaper for long-haul truckers called The Few, but then abruptly disappeared four years ago, abandoning both QZ and the newspaper.
Now, he has just as abruptly reappeared – to the irritation of QZ, who has kept the paper going by filling it with personal ads, and the delight of Matthew (Glick), whom QZ hired to help out, and had been an ardent fan of Bryan’s writing. Why did Bryan disappear? Why has he reappeared? What has he been doing? Matthew plies Bryan with questions; Bryan sullenly refuses at first to answer. Slowly, we learn many things about each of the characters. Matthew is Jim’s nephew; QZ hired him shortly after Jim was killed in a crash, because QZ wanted to rescue Matthew from his abusive stepfather, who had discovered that Matthew is gay.
When the secrets are eventually revealed — the mysteries solved — they turn out to be….well, let’s just say the plot is not the main reason to see the play. What is easier to embrace are the characters, and the performers who portray them, all three of whom were in the original production. Glick, best-known now for his Tony-nominated role in the Broadway play To Kill A Mockingbird, was praised in the Off-Broadway production of The Few for his skills at physical comedy. We don’t have access on Zoom to his entire body, but his face and his voice (and an occasional hand) are grand substitutes — as they were in a live streaming in May that re-created his starring role in Significant Other. And Laurence and Lawrence are equally adept as the superbly squabbling couple, allowing us to see the humor of the complicated range of intense emotions that Bryan and QZ feel for one another.
Hunter, who also directed this streaming production, shows a talent for finding the humor in loneliness and despair, which may be most evident here in the personal ads delivered by disembodied voices on the newspaper office’s answering machine that occasionally punctuate the dialogue:
“Looking for lady copilot to navigate end times. Spacious bunker with comfortable bed, running water, tape deck. Can withstand four-megaton blast. Me: over sixty. You: under forty. Let’s ride!”
Since its creation at the outset of the pandemic-induced shutdown in March, Play-PerView has presented first-rate live, one-time-only performances of both original plays and revivals with the original casts. The Few is the first play that they’re presenting as a tape on demand past its live performance. It’s a good choice.
The Few may not be Hunter’s best work, but it’s still unmistakably a Hunter play. All the ones I’ve seen have delighted me — The Whale in 2013, followed by Pocatello in 2014, Lewiston/Clarkston in 2018 and Greater Clements last year. As I wrote in my review of Greater Clements, each of his plays have chronicled both Idaho, a state I’ve never visited, and American loss, a state in which we all now seem to live.
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