Friday, May 09, 2014

Samuel D. Hunter Hits Me Where I Live (Again)

It's hard for me to talk/write about Samuel D. Hunter's work because I have such a strong emotional response that feels very personal to me. So I suggest you stop reading right now and just buy a ticket to The Few, which opened last night at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. This is only the second of his plays I've had the pleasure to see (the first was The Whale), but I already consider him one of my favorite playwrights. He writes about people whose lives are so distant from my own (in the case of The Few, truckers), yet his characters are so relatable.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus
The play, set in 1999 (immediately obvious even before the play begins thanks to Dane Laffrey's detailed, cluttered set), begins with Bryan (Michael Laurence) returning to the Idaho offices of the newspaper, also called The Few, that he started with his friend Jim and his ex-girlfriend QZ (Tasha Lawrence). They started the paper to give truckers something to read to help them feel less alone. In the four years Bryan's been away, having disappeared after Jim's death, QZ has turned the paper into personal ads--more enticing to advertisers. She has also employed Jim's nephew, 19-year-old Matthew (Gideon Glick). Hunter reunites with director Davis McCallum, who never rushes the work or the three actors.

Matthew spends much of the play trying to remind Bryan of what the paper used to be and could be again by reading its mission statement: “If you ask us what our agenda is, we’ll tell you that we don’t know. If you ask us why we started a newspaper for truckers, we’ll tell you it’s because we had to.” In The Whale, a piece of writing was also finally read aloud in a beautiful and significant way. As a writer and a reader, I like to believe that writing has value and the power to affect lives. Hunter's work makes me believe that it does.

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