THE INTIMATE WORLD of The Few exists in a small newspaper office, inside a trailer, off a highway in rural Idaho. It's a play as much about its container as its contents. MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale, A Bright New Boise) wrote The Few for a small theater like the CoHo, with its three-quarter circle of 95 seats. He wrote it to be told in the round, with stage blocking getting the performers close to the audience. He wrote The Few about the rural Pacific Northwest, about isolation and everyday human attempts at togetherness.
The Few is ostensibly about Y2K (remember that?) and a long-shriveled romance between two isolated newspaper founders, QZ (Val Landrum) and Bryan (Michael O'Connell). After an unexplained five-year absence, Bryan returns to address old wounds, and much of the backstory emerges from arguments. Bryan yells at QZ as she plays a first-generation Gameboy. QZ yells at Bryan as a fluorescent bulb flickers overhead. It's all handled well. The lighting and set dressing are commendable, right down to the huge bottle of lotion on QZ's desk, her name affixed to it with masking tape. I didn't think anyone sulked or drank believably, but when the climactic love secret dropped, two women behind me gasped audibly.
As a play about people that run a small newspaper funded mostly by truckers' personal ads, The Few never seems to be about its main storyline. I never actually cared about QZ or Bryan. I gave all my love to Matthew (Caleb Sohigian), the paper's 19-year-old page layout technician. As a person who works at a newspaper, I was elated to see a production manager brandishing a gun and shouting that the paper was coming out, personal problems be damned! Because truth. But why is a story about a young gay man's first passionate enterprise (page layout!) so heavily obfuscated by this mundane story of 40-something heterosexual romance?
There are a couple possibilities. It could be more of that layered human experience Hunter is becoming so famous for. It could be a way to get straight 40-something couples to watch a play about a young gay man. But whatever the reason, The Few works, and CoHo Productions has done a bang-up job presenting it with nuance and vigor.
CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh, Thurs-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm, through April 16, $15-28, cohoproductions.org