Irish playwright Elaine Murphy's humblebrag of a title gets it right. Little Gem, her multi-generational study of three Irish women and the mixed bag of men they contend with eschews the brilliant chatter and beautiful failures that make Irish theater a recognizable brand. Instead, this understated set of interwoven monologues focuses on the quotidian: young Amber (Lauren Mitchell) confronts a blonde who's after her boyfriend; her mother Lorraine (Sara Hennessey) screams at an annoying customer.
Bigger dramas turn up over the course of the play, but they stay rooted in the everyday details of these three lives. Murphy can be very funny: the struggles of Kay (Michele M. Mariana), Lorraineâs mother, with a new vibrator (her âalien willieâ) reliably broke up the opening night audience. That bitâs a testament to the strength of the writing; the laughs come not at Kayâs expense, as they might in some Apatow comedy, but in sympathy with her complex humanity and rueful self-awareness.
Little Gem is an actor's showcase, and all three performers transform the bare second floor of Kells Irish Pub into a lively slice of urban Irish life. Gemma Whelan's production is as modest as the play itself, and as quietly revelatory.
GO: Kells, 112 SW 2nd Ave., corribtheatre.org. 7:30 pm Mondays-Thursdays through Feb. 26. $15-$25.