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By Samuel D. Hunter
Directed by Davis McCallum
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
From April 23 to June 8, 2014
224 Waverly Place, NYC NY
Reviewed on May 12, 2014 by Larry Litt
As a writer I value the possibilities of writing to motivate, inform, entertain and most importantly realize writing's potential to heal readers and listeners. The ancient Greek literary philosophers declared that theatrical tragedies had a goal of creating empathy in its population. Watching staged painful personal, political and social conflicts would make the Greek population able to feel another's pain, thus more human. If this works in theory then watching a play asks us, the audience, to first sympathize then eventually empathize with its characters travails.
"The Few" by Samuel D. Hunter is a modern tragicomedy set in 1999 in a rural upper northwestern American town noted by truckers for its unique truck stop. Unlike other truck stops on the highways, this one is in a trailer where The Few, a well-loved trucker's newspaper is published. The Few's publisher and main writer, Brian, had once shown intuitive literary talent. Four years earlier, after a heart rending personal tragedy he deserted The Few and its minimal staff, namely his girlfriend QZ.Today The Few is a tawdry sex obsessed lonely hearts personal classifieds giveaway paper for truckers. A majority of readers live with loneliness or want to cheat on their significant others. We learn that truck driving may be good for our economy, but it isn't very good for the human soul.
Brian suddenly returns to The Few 's trailer/publishing office ready to resume his former life and love. Michael Laurence convincingly plays him as a sad, sorry, down and out drunken middle aged, lonely writer seeking personal salvation from his former lover and dutiful business partner QZ. Tasha Lawrence is strong willed, demanding answers, not easily giving in to Brian's need to reestablish himself in her life. Seems almost a standard love, escape and unrequited love plot that's going to have some heated personal arguments.
Until Matthew, the 20 year old hyper energetic copy boy cum computer whiz kid enters. Gideon Glick brilliantly plays Mathew as a frenetic geek with a hint of gay affectation. Mautthew is shocked to see the legendary Brian sitting in the trailer. He came on staff after Brian left. Matthew glowingly declares that Brian's inspiring articles and stories saved his life while he grew up in a nearby small town.
Matthew's speeches establish this play as one of the major promoters of small town creative writing. Writing as curative euphoric medicine for lost souls, for the depressed, lonely, different, pained and unloved. Writing as the reader's best friend and often only true companion. Reading and writing as a way to pass the millions of hours in small towns where bigotry and small mindedness reign. Well crafted words where like-minded people communicate not for commercial purposes but to tell stories, write poems and fill their lives with intensely true feelings.
QZ's economic battle for small profits out of a personal ads media versus inevitable losses from running a literary newspaper is only one of the multilayered issues in The Few. Samuel D. Hunter has captured current and eternal literary publishing controversies as well as anyone in recent times. Will advertising dominate journalistic publishing? I think we know the answer now.
Gideon Glick creates one of the most well rounded contemporary comic personas on any stage. Glick's comic timing and ability to project poignant dramatic feeling had me both laughing at his antics and in tears at his sadness.
"The Few" is great American theater. I don't say that lightly. Go find out.
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