The Few opens up a compelling love story in a forgotten setting.
It was such a passing fancy around the year 2000 that we have already forgotten about it. I’m talking about the “Y2K Bug,” the time setting for The Few, by Samuel D. Hunter. The place setting is obscured — I wouldn’t know it was northern Idaho if not for the bill saying so. Presented by CoHo Productions, in their intimate three-sided venue, we peer through the walls of a double-wide mobile home that acts as the publishing headquarters of The Few, a paper magazine written by and for truckers.
We open with Bryan sitting patiently as he is berated by QZ, the love of his life and the woman he walked out on without a word, four years prior. She took the mast of the paper when he left, turning it into something profitable while drifting from its vision. She is casual, jaded, cynical — not exactly a publishing tycoon. But he is much worse off emotionally and spiritually, only we don’t know why or what he’s been up to, until late in the second act.
It is apparent straight away that Bryan, played by Michael O’Connell, wants QZ and his trailer back, but isn’t ready to say it straight. Because he still owns it, she must tolerate him. Val Landrum offers a thoroughly convincing character as QZ. She reminds me of so many sharp but hard women, especially those who scoff at high culture and correct grammar (she’s not a great editor). O’Connell too has that edgy, simple but smart, no bullshit dude thing going, reminding me of so many complacent but unique men I’ve known. But it’s like that was beaten out of him, and he comes off as cowardly.
This is an engaging love story with a compelling setting, not the other way around. It could have been a very similar story set at the New York Times or whatever, but the playwright chose the fall of 1999 in northern Idaho. It is clever writing to choose a setting that nobody would care to think about while offering a romance that anyone can understand. Y2K symbolizes the kind of changes that were taking place in the world. It was a disruptive time, like now. The trailer offers a quaint memory of an era when telephone lines and computers were used to publish paper.
As someone who actually operated THRU Magazine out of a trailer with his life partner, over the winter, it was easy to project myself into the characters. I for one don’t want to end up jaded like them. This magazine is a tremendous amount of hard, unpaid work. It was started with an ideal, much like their fictitious publication, to bring people together, to demonstrate how we are connected. They have dormant dreams, they know they’re making a difference in peoples lives, but the harsh world can bear down on us and make us want to leave it all behind and revert into being nobody. But we just keep trucking with it, for the sake of hope.
The third and final character, Matthew, is performed by Caleb Sohigian. He too delivers a powerful performance. Matthew is a kid relegated to this little town, wherever it is, and a young adult whose dysfunctional family prevents him from having much of a life beyond The Few. We watch him hang onto the paper and treat it like he’s Editor-in-Chief. He probably is. Most of all, he idolized Bryan, innocently expecting terrific stories from the road to fill the papers with glories not seen since QZ stripped the paper of compelling content. To survive, it basically became just personals and advertising.
It turns out all three share a very important figure in their lives, whom they loved and lost, named Jim. Matthew was his nephew, but it sounds like Jim was more of a father. The revelation behind Jim’s death stirs up the buried emotions in all of them, and it forces the past to surface between QZ and Bryan. For a moment, they see each other with honesty again.
If the setting doesn’t set this apart from your common love story, the ending does. In fact, the only really happy ending belongs to a voice on the machine that collects personals. The good aspect of the ending is progress and change. But we must confront how difficult that can be.
The Few is stark but thoroughly engaging. Directed by Brandon Woolley, I have to give him credit in helping shape three terrific performances. Stage and lighting design, and all the other aspects of a solid theatre production are in step, as well. Hats off to the crew. It is a ninety-minute, no intermission show.
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