Review: The Few (Steep Theatre)

| April 17, 2016

Dana Black and Travis Coe in The Few at Steep Theatre, Samuel D Hunter           
       

  
The Few

Written by Samuel D. Hunter
Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn (map)
thru May 21  |  tix: $10-$35  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
    


    
  

Gritty and poignant

  

Travis Coe and Peter Moore in The Few at Steep Theatre by Samuel D. Hunter (LM)

    
Steep Theatre presents
    
The Few

Review by Lauren Whalen 

Stepping into Steep Theatre last Thursday night was akin to stepping back in time. Gravel crunched underneath my feet, and I experienced a strong flashback to visiting my dad at work. Growing up in central Illinois as the daughter of a trucking company CEO – who drove eighteen-wheelers himself, still does – I spent quite a bit of my childhood around a group who preferred life on the road. What’s most beautiful about the work of Playwright Samuel D. Hunter is his laser-like focus on outsiders of the heartland, and his dedication to presenting them as the humans they are. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Midwesterner whose politeness is severely tested when my people are portrayed as stereotypes, and Hunter does the exact opposite. Steep Theatre’s The Few showcases Hunter at his finest – from set to casting, each element conveying the struggles of the working man, woman and child.

Peter Moore and Travis Coe in The Few at Steep Theatre, Samuel HunterBryan (Peter Moore) was always a literary soul, but got into long-haul trucking to escape the increasingly-frequent arguments with his girlfriend QZ (Dana Black). Bryan then founded “The Few,” a newspaper especially for truckers, only to abandon it four years ago after his closest friend died behind the wheel. Now he’s back, and thanks to his now-ex QZ, the paper mostly consists of personal ads and has gained a new employee in nervous high school graduate Matthew (Travis Coe). Bryan doesn’t want to talk about his past or his future, but as he still legally owns the paper and its office trailer, at least he has a place to sleep. He doesn’t want to write. He doesn’t want to keep the paper going, necessarily, but he doesn’t really want to let it go. QZ is dating someone new, Matthew is almost too dedicated, and sooner or later, something’s gotta give.

Hunter’s plays have been popular in Chicago even before the playwright was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2014. I reviewed A Bright New Boise – set entirely in the breakroom of an Idaho Hobby Lobby – at LiveWire back in 2012, as well as The Whale (a parable of a morbidly obese man and his estranged teenage daughter) at Victory Gardens in 2013. Last year’s Pocatello at Griffin Theatre Company, the tale of employees at an Olive Garden just off the highway, was one of our top ten plays of 2015. Hunter doesn’t write about pretty people with problems. His characters are rough around the edges, sometimes all the way through. They are flawed, they can be nasty, and they are completely and utterly human. The Few is no different: Bryan drinks too much and engages too little. QZ is understandably still wounded by his abandonment, but is equally unwilling to forgive. And Matthew tries too hard to attain a perfect reality that never existed, rather than concentrate on the present. Hunter (and by extension, director Brad Akin) takes us into the hearts and psyches of these three characters: it’s not always fun, more often relentless, but ultimately rewarding and just slightly unsettling.

Dana Black and Travis Coe in The Few at Steep Theatre, Samuel D Hunter Travis Coe and Peter Moore in The Few at Steep Theatre, Samuel D Hunter (LM)

As mentioned earlier, set designer Lauren Nigri’s work reeks of accuracy, so much that I could practically smell the dirt, oil and cigarette smoke. (I also noticed a crushed aluminum can in the gravel – extra points for that stunning little detail.) Matthew Chapman’s sound design and original music evokes an appropriate sense of longing, and Emily McConnell’s costumes reflect the late 1990’s so well it’s almost painful. Each cast member brings strength and nuance: Moore’s Bryan is mostly silent but not as strong as he thinks. Black’s QZ personifies the old saying “rode hard and put away wet” throughout her character’s journey, and Coe as Matthew is the play’s twitchy, trembling heart.

Hunter is a national treasure, and Steep’s production of The Few is an excellent introduction to the playwright as well as a reward for the die-hard fan. As with previous characters, Hunter treats this downtrodden trio with respect and courage, acknowledging their shortcomings as well as their strengths. The open road beckons to many of us, not just long-haul truckers, but The Few reminds us of the many roadblocks distance can create – as well as the living, breathing humans residing off of each exit.

  
Rating: ★★★★
  
   

The Few continues through May 21st at Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $10-$35, and are available by phone (773-649-3186) or online through OvationTix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at SteepTheatre.com(Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes, no intermission)

Dana Black and Peter Moore in The Few at Steep Theatre (LM)

Photos by Gregg Gilman, Lee Miller


  

artists

cast

Dana Black (QZ), Peter Moore (Bryan), Travis Coe (Matthew), Michelle Bester (u/s QZ), Daniel Dauphin (u/s Bryan), Jerico Bleu (u/s Matthew)

behind the scenes

Brad Akin (director), Lauren Lassus (stage manager), Lauren Nigri (scenic design), Becca Jeffords (lighting design), Emily McConnell (costume design), Matthew Chapman (sound design, original music), Maria DeFabo (props design), Maggie Rogers (dramaturg), Catherine Allen (production manager), Alex Rhyan (technical director), Lexi Saunders (assistant director), Timothy McNulty (assistant musical composition), Caroline Neff (casting director), Gregg Gilman, Lee Miller (photos)

Travis Coe in The Few at Steep Theatre by Samuel D Hunter (LM) Peter Moore in The Few at Steep Theatre by Samuel D Hunter (LM)

16-0429

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2016 Reviews, Lauren Whalen, Steep Theatre

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. John Capaul says:

    Excellent review … except for the “rode hard and put away wet” description. It’s a phrase the connotes something very different. QZ is deeply wounded; wearing whatever she can put her hands on for armor.