Madeleine George has written an intelligent, thought-provoking play, Precious Little and the City Theatre cast and director Tracy Brigden impressively get to the heart of it. I call it thought-provoking because, after you’ve watched it, you may want to know what George intends to say within the confines of this 80 minute piece.
On the surface it deals with linguist Brodie, a 42-year old lesbian whose carefully planned pregnancy may develop unforeseen complications. Brodie is also doing research on communications in a vanishing foreign language by native speaker Cleva, hovered over by an overly protective daughter. And, visiting a zoo, Brodie becomes fascinated by a potentially communicative female ape.
There are ways you can tie this together into something meaningful. Brodie, who doesn’t openly commit to her clandestine lesbian relationship, seems to be motivated by intellect rather than emotion as she anxiously awaits becoming a mother. And the more often Brodie visits the ape the more she may see it as a benign, elemental force of nature. Meanwhile the older woman Cleva, revisiting her language, becomes inundated by a flood of emotional memories.
In focusing on the need to communicate, Madeleine George has written excellent dialogue revealing procedures but also pointing up that communicating is more than just words. Moreover, perceptively, her characters don’t behave predictably, making them genuinely human rather than intellectually symbolic.
Equally perceptive, the three women in Precious Little play the principal roles with total conviction. Theo Allyn impressively makes clear three quite varied personalities. Laurie Klatscher has touching, warm sweetness as Cleva. And visiting artist Kelly McAndrew gives Brodie completely truthful edginess and increasing vulnerability.
As always, one of Pittsburgh’s best directors, Tracy Brigden stages, paces, shades and develops the performances to bring out the best of what’s in the play without resorting to gimmicks or forcing the issues or implications.
As for what the words of title may mean, ponder the subtle undercurrents in what you see and hear; you’ll come up with something.
Precious Little continues through April 3rd at City Theatre 1300 Bingham Street on Pittsburgh’s South Side 412/ 431.CITY (2489) or CityTheatreCompany.org.