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Off Broadway

The Touching Goodbye Girls of Little Gem

The Touching Goodbye Girls of Little Gem

It is really about four time Academy Award nominee and two time Golden Glove Award winner, Marsha Mason (“The Goodbye Girl“, Broadway’s Steel Magnolias) that drew me to the Irish Repertory Theatre on a lovely summer’s eve in July. I had never heard of Elaine Murphy’s debut play, Little Gem which premiered at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2008, but was eager to see what that Irish woman’s voice had in store for me. She has created with clarity a series of three overlapping monologues that slowly wind themselves together into a whole. It’s perfect in its Irish-ness, filled to the brim with funny whip smart asides and sexual frankness that when delivered with that accent rings true and charming, even in its drunken bold honesty.

Brenda Meaney, Marsha Mason, and Lauren O’Leary. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Lorraine, portrayed strongly by Brenda Meaney (RTC’s Indian Ink), delivers the middle ground with heart breaking clarity, weaving her tale that entangles us in her need. Amber, cheekily played by Lauren O’Leary (Other Room’s The Awkward Years), the young generational beacon is a bit too physically clumsy in her precociousness but delivers the edgy youthful story with force and rebellious and garish glee. Her movements seem abrupt and distracting at odd moments, ratcheting the energy around from sweet to stormy, but I’ll lay that one on the vision and instructions of director Marc Atkinson Borrull (Gate Theatre’s Beginning) who leads these three forward in a somewhat awkward nonsensical universe. If he had just had more belief in the story and the three actors, the piece might have delivered the story of love, grief, confusion, and deliverance with a stronger deeper connection, but he shifts and moves the three around an antiseptic waiting room set that never fully explains itself. Designed with an exacting attention to detail by Meredith Ries (Rattlestick’s No One Is Forgotten), the space never illuminates, only clumsily gets in the actors way, barring them from expanding our imagination by being too clearly positioned in a specificity that has no purpose beyond the most oblique. With spotty lighting by Michael O’Connor (59E59’s Hal and Bee), straight forward but overly layered costuming by Christopher Metzger (Wheelhouse’s Enemy of  the People), and a solid clear sound design by Ryan Rumery (RTC’s Apologia), the story unfolds despite the unneeded obstacles. It’s a simple story, told from the heart, and all that structuring is merely distracting from Mason’s beautiful nuanced storytelling at the center. She has this innate ability to give layers of perspective and humor to this grandmotherly tale with an added edge of honest youthful vision and emotionality. The two others sharing the stage and their story do a good job remaining relatively connected to her core. All three do a grand job, working overtime and not complaining, but it’s Mason who pulls us to the end, cradling us in her outstretched arms.. If only we didn’t have to try try so hard to ignore that mess surrounding her and her two costars.

Marsha Mason, Lauren O’Leary, Brenda Meaney in Little GemIrish Repertory Theatre. Photo: Carol Rosegg.

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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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