Shane O'Regan, Elizabeth Moynihan and Jed Murray in The Few. Image uncredited
They say life’s what you make it. In Samuel D. Hunter’s existential comedy The Few, life’s what you fail to make it. Life being what’s left when you cease to connect, to believe anymore, when you can’t carry on. When running away or running towards makes little difference; it’s all just running. Likely to bring you right back to where you started, struggling to get through each day. The only thing worse being standing still. For love doesn’t conquer all, it’s conquered by all the loneliness and pointlessness of life. Smartly observed and succinctly written, Hunter’s sharp script skirts Sam Shepherd territory as staff at a troubled Idaho newspaper serve up a study in loneliness. Begging the question, how can you connect with another person when you can’t even connect with yourself?
Less On The Road so much as Paris Texas, Hunter’s sky wide America isn’t a place so much as a series of road markers and garage forecourts linking nowhere special with nowhere to go. Like Idaho. Where Bryan, a trucker poet who disappeared four years ago, decides to play one last roll of life’s dice. Jed Murray’s gruff giant, all baseball cap and weightlifter presence, growls softly in Lee Marvin tones as he returns to reclaim the newspaper he helped found. Elizabeth Moynihan’s QZ (pronounced Queue Zee) Bryan’s former lover and one of his two former partners, isn’t having it. World worn and defiant like a booze soaked country song, QZ made a success of their trucker's newspaper by emphasising personal ads over content. As art and commerce collide, mixed up with love’s old wounds, the arrival of Shane O’Regan’s Matty, the nephew of the third partner, Jim, after whose death Bryan walked out, proves a catalyst to action. If Bryan is emotionally constipated, Matty’s emotionally incontinent. Fists permanently clenching and unclenching, struggling to accept that he’s not accepted by his stepdad for being gay. Learning the hard way that meeting your heroes isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Heroes who can quench youthful enthusiasm on account of their own failed dreams. Throw in some dodgy cocktails, some home truths, a BB gun, a showdown and an eye patch, and gradually the nonsense starts to make sense. In which a fresh start without guarantees might be all the happy ever after anyone can really hope for.
Set just before the Y2K false alarm, when people still wrote letters and the approaching millennium signalled the end of the world, The Few uses dated details without feeling old. Aided superbly by a clever sound design which jingles with nostalgic prompts. Louise Dunne’s trailer park costumes reinforcing a sense of a failed American dream. The whole played without urgency. Rex Ryan’s direction ensuring pace is steady and visuals are built on visible contrasts, beginning with Murray and Moynihan’s expressions when the lights come up. Later, Murray lumbering like a honky tonk hangover provides a perfect foil to the agitations of Moynihan and O’Regan’s passionate frustrations. If, initially, cast members wear their subtext on their sleeves, as performances progress the realisation that it’s okay not to try so hard begins to sink in. By the end, Murray, Moynihan and O’Regan make for an impressive trio. Which proves vital, for characters are far more engaging than Hunter’s less than stellar story, which is not aways convincing. Full marks, too, to the cast for negotiating what has to be one of the tightest performing spaces in the galaxy right now. Granted, the action is set in a trailer. But this makes a trailer look like an overcrowded prison cell.
One of many crimes resulting from vanishing venues and disappearing theatre companies is less opportunities to see foregin, critically acclaimed works like The Few, which receives its Irish premiere at Glass Mask Theatre as they commence their fifth season. Given Hunter also wrote the play that inspired the Oscar nominated movie The Whale, there'll be some curious to check The Few out on account of that. And so they should. Mindful that The Few’s interrogation of the loneliness of the long distance truck driver is impressive in its own right. Brought to life in a hardworking production with an invested cast who make you care about a man who’s trying hard not to. Camus said suicide’s the only real question in life. The Few dares to hope for a better answer.
The Few by Samuel.D Hunter, runs at Glass Mask Theatre until February 25.
For more information visit Glass Mask Theatre