Monday, May 16, 2016

Keep on Truckin': Steep's 'The Few' Features Several Fine Aspects -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

The Few
a recent play by Samuel D. Hunter
directed by Brad Akin
Steep Theatre Co., Chicago
Thru May 21

There are many plays (and movies, books, etc.) whose titles give little clue as to what the show is about. And certainly, most plays are about much more than what a sound byte description can convey.

But in noting that I saw a play called The Few, you would likely be hard-pressed to guess--even if given 20 attempts--the subject matter covered by writer Stephen D. Hunter.

Not only is it somewhat odd that The Few is the title of a play revolving around proprietors of a small newspaper aimed at truck drivers, it may be even stranger that the fictional trucker rag itself is named The Few.

As the dramedy opens, Bryan (Peter Moore) has suddenly returned to The Few’s ramshackle office—housed in a small building he owns—after 4 years away. This surprises and rankles QZ (Dana Black), the romantic and business partner he left behind with nary a word, due to circumstances involving an unseen former third partner named Jim.

Rounding out the three character cast is Matthew (Travis Coe), a gawky 19-year-old who has been working on the paper in Bryan’s absence.

Under the direction of Brad Akin at Steep Theatre—a fine Chicago storefront located under the Berwyn Red Line station—The Few is far from structurally complex, with the entire 100-minute one act consisting of two or three of the characters speaking to each other within a static setting.

And although the narrative concept of a truckers newspaper—which has achieved profitability under QZ and Matthew by becoming filled mostly with personal ads—is rather unique, the major themes Hunter broaches aren’t all that nouveau.

Many a work of theater has touched on ex-lovers re-entering each others’ lives, and the desire individuals often harbor for a sense of community and connection, be they OTR truckers on 7,000-mile runs or anyone.

Though set on the precipice of Y2K, The Few debuted in 2014, and the even greater isolation wrought by the ever-broadening digital age adds understated currency and resonance to the narrative. 

Yet in having chosen to catch a Sunday matinee in large part because of stellar reviews, I found The Few to be sufficiently compelling thanks to its trio of characters, and the fine embodiment of each.

While Black overtly imbues QZ with embittered ire over the reappearance of Bryan, she never bristles past the point of ongoing interaction between the two feeling believable, or completely devoid of warmth.

Moore, one of the founders of Steep Theatre Co., seems perfect as a rather literate former trucker
who has found himself a bit lost several years down the road.

And Roe’s Matthew is a well-enacted glimpse of the awkwardness many face on the edge of adulthood, burdened with familial strife and a sexual orientation his parents harshly fail to accept.

With just a week left in the run, I wouldn't profusely insist you get to one of The Few remaining performances. But if, like me, you find yourself looking for something to see, you wouldn't go too wrong if inclined to venture to Steep. (Especially with HotTix likely available for under $20).

This Midwest Premiere is a nice piece of storefront theater that fits well into Steep's intimate confines. It may not change your life, but even if you've never been a trucker or a journalist, it quite possibly could--in a variety of ways--reflect it.

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