nytheatre.com review by Shelley Molad
January 9, 2010
Elaine Murphy's Little Gem is in fact a gem worth seeing, playing at The Flea for a limited run. But don't be confused by the title—Gem is a name, the Irish equivalent to Jim, a nickname for James, but the double meaning is fitting. Little Gem comes to us from Ireland, having gained attention at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, garnering novice playwright Elaine Murphy the 2009 Best of Edinburgh Award. Luckily, the play will continue at the Abbey Theater in Dublin. This production is presented by the Civic Theater of Dublin and Guna Nua, an independent theater company based in Dublin, committed to producing new Irish plays. (Director Paul Meade is the artistic director of Guna Nua.)
The show is the story of three generations of women: Amber, a naively ballsy 19-year-old; Lorraine, her shy and anxious mother; and Kay, her eccentric grandmother. The three women sit in their respective places throughout the show and stand up to speak whenever the spotlight invites them to.
Each of these women has her own story to tell. Amber unexpectedly gets pregnant by her careless boyfriend Paul and must cope with the hardships of teenage life, peer-pressure, an absent father and neurotic mother, among other things. Lorraine is just beginning to face her fears and anxiety in therapy. She makes a big leap enlisting in salsa lessons and going on her first date in years. Kay is dependent on caring for her sick husband Gem, but the angst she feels because of her lack of sex compels her to visit an erotic toy store.
The stories shared in Little Gem make you laugh and cry. They are so touching but the humor prevents the show from ever getting too sappy. Each woman's story is relatable, covering themes such as family, love, and loss. Though the divide between these generations is more than apparent, there is something that binds these women, other than their blood. The journey of losing one Gem and welcoming another, baby Gem, is what ultimately seals their bond.
Watching this show may make you want to call your mother or grandmother.
The storytelling here is so entertaining; it is done simply yet is both lively and engaging, due to the actors' skills, and my, are these women talented: Hilda Fay is Lorraine, Sarah Greene is Amber, and Anita Reeves is Kay.
Though there are points where it seems the story could drag on, the end is worth the wait. It left me smiling, even through all my tears.