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THEATER REVIEW: “The Few” at The Old Globe

Thomas Wolfe said it: You can’t go home again. But what if you are home and that’s not working either?

Samuel D. Hunter’s “The Few,” in its world premiere through Oct. 27 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, is a three-hander about life, love, loneliness and the problems of running a newspaper for truckers in a tiny Idaho town. Davis McCallum directs.

Bryan (Michael Laurence), publisher and co-founder of “The Few,” returning to town and the paper after his partner Jim’s suicide and an unexplained four-year absence, finds ex-girlfriend QZ (Eva Kaminsky) in charge and distinctly not happy to see him. She’s so ticked that she says “shut up” five times in their first conversation, also hastening to mention that she’s seeing someone else “better than you in every way.”

Bryan’s mystifying walkout and unannounced return because “I was tired and this is the only shelter I have a legal right to anymore” – and the fact that he owns both the paper and the building and could shut both down – may explain in part why he and QZ will never be an item again.

Another might be the “good news” that QZ has found a way to make the paper profitable (or at least break even): she’s expanded the number of personal ads and shrunk actual content to her column and a horoscope page (she makes up the predictions). “The Few” has a hotline number for call-in ads, and 18 advertisers – some funny, some poignant – are heard dictating their ads on the paper’s answering machine.

Bryan is horrified to find that “The Few” has become a dating service. He’s also not thrilled about the presence of the other lost soul in this play: QZ’s 19-year-old acolyte Matthew (Gideon Glick), who looks forward to work because “I can’t go home. My stepdad wouldn’t even let me in the front door. And my mom’s always on fuc*ing pain pills.”

These three broken people spend their time in this 90-minute one-act play together because they have no other place to be, carping at each other pretty much the whole time. QZ’s sour disposition does not improve, forcing Kaminsky into a one-note performance that quickly wears out its welcome and makes it difficult to care what happens to her. We never really find out why Bryan split, though he seems to think it was for a noble reason. And Matthew is just a sad little wounded bird trying to find a place to land. But the play lacks an arc, and is thus more of a slog than it needs to be.

Matthew does serve as a convenient plot device for the only meat in the play: his question prompts Bryan’s explanation of the genesis of “The Few” as a refuge for members of the loneliest profession in the world, a place to “look at each other, talk and remind each other that they still exist. Jim called it ‘church without God.’”

Unfortunately, it’s spoken, not shown – and Laurence should be reminded that the White’s in-the-round configuration is not kind to long speeches when a significant portion of the audience is not in front of the actor at any given moment. Diction and volume are key.

McCallum does what he can with this static script, and so do the actors. Glick is endearing if a bit nervous-making as the young Matthew, almost flitting around like a butterfly with no place to land. Laurence needs better diction and more help from the playwright about his character. Kaminsky is excellent, if necessarily one-note.

Kudos to Dane Laffrey for the all-too-familiar cluttered set design. Costumes, lighting and sound design are well handled by Jessica Pabst, Matt Frey and Daniel Kluger.

Hunter is a significant young playwright. His “The Whale” is a wonderful piece of work. “The Few” has potential, though it might be better as a film than onstage, where showing the lonely life of the trucker would be easier.

The details

“The Few” plays through Oct. 27 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.

Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

Tickets: (619) 234-5623 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.