Little Gem with Milwaukee Irish Arts

May. 7, 2017
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Elaine Murphy’s Little Gem has the humor and pacing of a delightful, little Irish indie film. It’s not. It’s a stage narrative woven together from three alternating monologues. Each monologue is told from the perspective of a woman of a different generation. It’s only just the three characters onstage, but Murphy’s script delivers a powerful depth of characterization that renders a profoundly detailed world for the stage with a deftly precise narrative delivered with cunning economy of word.

Milwaukee Irish Arts stages the show this weekend in the beautiful space of the Irish Cultural Heritage Center. The space is huge. One might expect that the intimacy between performer and audience might get lost in the grand space of the ICHC’s auditorium, but the audience sits onstage right along with the actors in a very touching and endearing performance featuring three actresses, three characters, one playwright and one audience. There are no other elements onstage to distract from the story. Thoughtfully directed by Lindsey Gagliano, the production finds the pulse and rhythm of the narrative. We get a stories of strength, vulnerability and courage against the daily trials and challenges of life in Dublin.

Joan End plays Kay--the eldest of the three. Her husband’s health has been fading and she’s been struggling to find some sense of identity beyond the life she’s always known. End has an affable poise about her in the role. What starts out as a trip to the doctor’s office turns into something altogether deeper. There’s a wistful energy about her performance that’s positively beautiful.

Libby Amato plays Lorraine--a single mother tentatively trying to find a life for herself now that her daughter is a bit older. A well-written narrative can make awkward moments seem positively graceful, which undermines the subject matter quite a bit. Amato finds a beauty in Lorraine’s awkward flirtations with a life beyond motherhood that in no way compromises the heart or humor of social interactions for those of us who have somehow emerged somewhere beyond youth.

April Paul plays the youngest of the three--Lorraine’s daughter Amber. She’s possibly dealing with the most serious personal issues of the three as she stumbles into a kind of adulthood. Given some of the biggest stresses of the plot, she’s also given the chance to show the most strength. Paul delivers on that emotional strength quite well in a performance the fits snugly in the middle of the other two. 

Milwaukee Irish Arts’ staging of Little Gem runs through May 8 at the Irish Cultural Heritage Center on 2133 W Wisconsin Ave. For ticket reservations and more, visit Milwaukee Irish Arts online.

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