The Few – Glass Mask Theatre – Review
by Frank L
10 Feb 2023 until — 25 Feb 2023
First performed in 2012, this play by Samuel D. Hunter (the author of “The Whale” nominated for best picture in this year’s Academy Awards) is set in 1999, just before the Y2K bug threatened to cause a global computing apocalypse at the start of the new millennium. It is the problem that QZ (Elizabeth Moynihan) is fixating upon when the play begins. Her own particular pressing issue is trying to keep a small hard copy newspaper, the Few, dedicated to truckers commercially viable. It was originally founded by her lover Bryan (Jed Murry) who had walked out on her, unannounced, four years previously after the death of Andy, his partner in the enterprise. She has kept it going by reducing the literary content of the Few to a bare minimum and making it primarily a vehicle for small ads of the lonely hearts variety and it has succeeded commercially. She is assisted in this task by Andy’s nephew, Matthew (Shane O’Regan), a gay teenage boy. Matthew has found the trailer, from which the newspaper emanates, and the company of QZ a refuge from the abuses of an alcoholic stepfather. Out of the blue and without warning Bryan returns.
The set which represents the interior of a trailer consists of a large answering machine, a laptop, a table and a couple of chairs and other bits and pieces likely to be found in any work environment producing a hard copy newspaper. The means by which the Few receives small ads is by people telephoning in and onto an answering machine dictating the text of their ad. The answering machine gives information on how to pay for the small ad. However, this technology, a quarter of a century later, all seems distant and antiquated. It works as a theatrical device and the mechanics of its interruptions worked flawlessly. However, it does generate the feeling of a time past.
The play seeks to explain what Bryan has been doing for the last four years, his complex relationship with QZ, and the events surrounding Andy’s death. The various stories only emerge gradually and each character is marked by loneliness. The isolation of a long-distance trucker emphasises further the phenomenon of loneliness. Inevitably, alcohol plays a prominent role. The play is written at a slow pace but light relief is provided by interruptions from the answering machine as lonely hearts ring in with the wording of their small ads.
The text reminds us that Covid, climate change and Putin’s Ukraine war appear to be far more substantial apocalyptic threats than Y2K ever did. However, that could be a view clouded by hindsight. The three actors rise with varying degrees of success to the challenges that this now-dated storyline creates. Somehow, the pretext of Y2K in 1999 seems from the perspective of 2023 less than cataclysmic. The loneliness of long-distance truckers no doubt is as intense as it was in 1999. Undoubtedly lonely lives are abundant in 2023, particularly as a result of Covid. The world has even more apocalyptic threats nowadays. Somehow harking back to Y2K does not help greatly in articulating the phenomenon other than to remind us that we survived.
Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review
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