Word of mouth is going strong for City Theater’s production of Elaine Murphy’s Little Gem, a play about three Irish women who talk of life, love, marriage, and so much more. There’s Young Amber (played by Hayley Nielsen), Amber’s mother Lorraine (played by Robin Walsh), and Lorraine’s mother Kay (played by Cary Anne Spear). Three distinct women, three distinct story lines, three very distinct set of troubles.
As taken from the Post Gazette’s preview of the show (because really, they say it perfectly and there’s nothing I could add):
In “Little Gem,” three generations of Dublin women narrate their tales of the worst year ever. Each woman is experiencing an emotional crisis, and the men in their lives add to their burdens. The pregnant Amber has a history of drug and alcohol abuse and her boyfriend is unreliable; Lorraine has been separated from her partner Ray, a homeless drug addict who occasionally drops in to wreak havoc with her life; and Kay is the caretaker for her husband, Gem, who has suffered a stroke and is unable to feed or dress himself.
The play is told in overlapping monologues that [director Kimberly Senior] likens to reading fiction, when you are allowed insight into the minds of characters. As an example of how their relationships are revealed, the director chooses a point in the play when Amber tells her grandmother she is pregnant before telling her mother. When Loraine hears the news, her disappointment is evident.
The writing is beautiful and Ms. Murphy’s sharp wit and spot-on insights bring the characters to vivid life, helped along, of course, by the solid and confident performances of the cast. It’s a sparse, minimal stage set up – theater in the round, no backdrops, just a floor of varying surfaces – but it works. And just a word of advice, check out the dictionary of Gaelic words found in the program before the show begins. You’ll need it.
All in all, the play is totally enjoyable and, though Irish women are the main characters, the story is universal in its narrative. Everyone will be able to relate. A gem indeed, Little Gem sparkles and shines. Great job, Tracy Brigden, for bringing another stellar play to Pittsburgh.
For tickets, go here. The play runs now through May 5.