San Diego Theater Review: THE FEW (Old Globe)

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by Tony Frankel on October 7, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Samuel D. Hunter’s slice-of-life one-act, The Few, returns to familiar territory for this up-and-coming playwright. As in his previous plays, Hunter takes us to small-town Idaho; this time, it’s 1999 and we are in the ramshackle trailer office of DZ (from top) Gideon Glick as Matthew, Michael Laurence as Bryan and Eva Kaminsky as QZ in the World Premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's THE FEW at The Old Globe, San Diego(Eva Kaminsky), publisher of a small newspaper for truckers. Enter the paper’s founder, Bryan (Michael Laurence), who returns after four years to discover that his former girlfriend DZ has turned The Few from a money-drainer into a breaking-even venture by placing personal ads for romance-seeking haulers.

DZ is none too pleased to see the guy who inexplicably dumped her, and Bryan is upset that these ads, which are transcribed from an answering machine which sits on DZ’s cluttered desk, have taken the place of previous content (currently, there is one article and DZ’s dreamt up astrology). But Bryan owns both the paper and the trailer, and he needs a place to crash, so along with DZ’s helper, an awkward 19-year-old named Matthew, this three-hander becomes an interesting set-up to nowhere, rife with ideas but lacking true drama.

Themes of disconnection and loneliness abound in this simple tale, and Hunter has a lovely way with naturalistic dialogue. I love how he peers into the lives of small-town folk, creating empathy for those whose existence is dictated by their Gideon Glick as Matthew in the World Premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's THE FEW at The Old Globe, San Diegocircumstances. Hunter examines the seemingly trivial small-town folk who are rarely portrayed in the theater, and it is most welcoming. But much of the dramatic action occurs offstage and the simplistic construction lacks an arc. DZ is a one-note carper and Bryan is a sad sack whose disappearance and motivations remain largely unexplained. By creating characters who have had their life-force eroded, Hunter inadvertently washed the life out of his play.

Matthew is the only soul constructed who has urgency; meek yet combative, caring yet stubborn, his is the only journey we care about. It helps that Gideon Glick offers one of the most compelling performances of the year as Matthew: Goofy, jumpy, immature, garrulous, and full of pain, Glick offers a portrayal so startlingly accurate that it’s a wonder he didn’t fall off the back of a potato truck.

Dane Laffrey’s set is a disorderly wonder, replete with file boxes, floppy disks and working dinosaur computers. Matt Frey’s fascinating design evokes the sickly pallor of fluorescent lights, but also offers warmer and brighter colors around and under the set to represent the possibilities of the outside world (the lighting is the most theatrical element in the show). Jessica Pabst’s threadbare costumes speak to the economic realities of these characters. Daniel Kluger performs a neat trick with that Michael Laurence as Bryan in the World Premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's THE FEW at The Old Globe, San Diegoanswering machine: local San Diego actors were hired to prerecord the personal ad messages (some comical, others moving), and they seem to emanate from that tiny box, yet we could hear them perfectly. If only we could hear the actors with such ease: Glick and Laurence lose some lines when they turn their back (it’s fascinating that we can hear every word from the least-developed character of DZ, thanks to Kaminsky).

The play is not good yet, but it is packed with potential and should be fleshed-out. Director Davis McCallum has made the proceedings far more cinematic than theatrical, especially given the mumbled dialogue. Indeed, he attempts to give the play more weight than it deserves by letting his players take long pauses for reflection, but their silences lack meaning. The Few is ready for a workshop, not a World Premiere; but that is what regional theaters like the Old Globe should expect when playwrights are given a slot in the season because of their previous successes, not for the actual play at hand.

Eva Kaminsky as QZ in the World Premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's THE FEW at The Old Globe, San Diegophotos by Jim Cox

The Few
Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre
The Old Globe in Balboa Park
scheduled to end on October 27, 2013
for tickets, call (619) 234-5623
or visit

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