Hands down the best reason to see this production is Marsha Mason. Kay, a woman of a certain age, enters the doctor’s waiting room talking about “an itch down there” and sexual frustration due to her husband, Gem’s (James), incapacitation after a stroke. She loves the “cantankerous old fuck” deeply.
Her doctor has recommended buying a Rampant Rabbit which is exactly what it sounds like. Kay uncomfortably goes to check out the apparatus and is intimidated by its size and variant exertions. Offered a deluxe version, she suggests that one must do “the hovering.” She exits with the less menacing Kermit. There’s no fourth wall. The anecdote is a prime example of nuanced acting/candid sharing.
Prior to Kay, we’ve shifted in our seats through an overly long monologue by young, vapid, hard-partying Amber (Lauren O’Leary, all technique no credibility) and then, middle-aged single mother/saleswoman, Lorraine (Brenda Meaney), provoked to tears by a manipulative customer and her own omnipresent depression.
Several monologues down the line, we realize these are three generations of the same family. Kay can’t imagine her life without the man around which her life has revolved since age 14. Amber, Kay’s granddaughter, is accidentally pregnant by a young lout imminently moving to Australia. “I’m so fucked.” Her mother, Lorraine, dealing with the fallout of an addict ex-husband who took everything, is tenuously dating again. None of the women have let go of the men in their lives. None can change them.
All the lives are realistic. Crossovers increase as the play proceeds. At first, the women seem oblivious of one another, then, gradually, they turn and listen. Unfortunately, having no patience for the ill-depicted Amber comes close to taking out a third of the narrative.
Mason continues to be sympathetic, amusing, touching, and grounded. Brenda Meaney gives us a tightly wound, believably struggling character. Encounters with a new man are surprised and tender. Relationships are well defined. The play would land better with about 15 minutes cut. Excess distracts.
Director Marc Atkinson Borrull gets two out of three women right, though awareness of one another is a bit amorphous.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Marsha Mason (Kay), Lauren O’Leary (Amber), Brenda Meaney (Lorraine)
Little Gem by Elaine Murphy
Directed by Marc Atkinson Borrull
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
Through September 1, 2019