What’s it like to be lonely? Not just alone but pure existential isolation. How do people cope? The Old Globe’s world premiere production of “The Few” explores these questions, offering a poignant trip into the heart of darkness.
Set in Idaho in 1999, just a few months before Y2K, the story begins with Bryan (Michael Laurence) returning to The Few, a newspaper aimed at long-haul truckers. Bryan disappeared four years before, and his former lover and colleague, QZ (Eva Kaminsky), kept the paper afloat, replacing editorial content with personal ads. She is not pleased to see him.
Sheepish and apologetic, Bryan knows he’s done wrong but has mysterious business to complete. He absorbs QZ’s salvos and asks to use the office cot for a few nights. Though he’s practically begging, it’s clear QZ has no choice. As Bryan points out, he still owns the paper.
Bryan and QZ share a complicated history that bubbles up constantly. They are both still wounded by the accident that killed Jim, Bryan’s friend and business partner. This is further complicated by Jim’s nephew, Matthew (Gideon Glick), a wet-behind-the-ears teenager who works at the paper.
The persistent conflict between the three characters is punctuated by the ringing phone and messages from truckers placing ads—a Greek chorus underlining the turmoil in the character’s lives. The personals are both commentary and plot point, as neither Bryan nor Matthew is thrilled with QZ’s vision for the paper.
The characters are clear archetypes—Bryan as laconic, modern-day cowboy; QZ as pugnacious survivor; Matthew as earnest boy waiting for a hero—and the execution is brilliant. Bryan won’t reveal his agenda, but the way he listens so intently to strangers pouring their hearts out on the machine is heartbreaking.
The show is a window into how different people endure suffering, and all three cast members are up to the task. Laurence deserves special acknowledgement; his Bryan seems constantly poised between tears, rage and acquiescence. It’s anybody’s guess what he’ll do next.
McCallum’s direction fully captures the quiet anguish. Bryan and QZ have so much they can’t say to each other, the silences are like explosions. The set is itself a paean to isolation, a cluttered time capsule from the millennium, tacky screensaver and all.
But the ultimate stars are the faceless voices on the answering machine. Tired, angry, confused, self-effacing, cavalier—their personals are like haikus of desperation, waiting for an answer.