Precious Little

Available in Library

When Brodie, a gifted linguist, learns that the baby she's carrying may have a genetic abnormality, she struggles to decide whether she can love a child who may never learn how to speak. As she seeks comfort from three unlikely intimates—her grad student girlfriend, an elderly immigrant who is among the last speakers of a dying language, and an unusual gorilla at the zoo—she discovers new forms of communication, taking her deeper and deeper into unfamiliar, but thrilling, territory beyond words. Three actors play ten roles in this gentle fantasia about the beauty and limits of language.

Rami Margron and Nancy Carlin in Precious Little at Shotgun Players, Berkeley, dir. Marissa Wolf, 2012.  Photo by Pak Han.
Laurie Klatscher and Kelly McAndrew in <em>Precious Little</em> at City Theatre in Pittsburgh, dir. Tracy Brigden.
Meighan Gerachis and Marilyn Dodds Frank in Precious Little, Rivendell Theatre, dir. Julieanne Ehre. Photo: John W. Sisson, Jr.
Theo Allyn, Laurie Klatscher, and Kelly McAndrew in <em>Precious Little</em> at City Theatre in Pittsburgh, dir. Tracy Brigden.
Emily Ackerman and Randy Danson in <I>Precious Little</I> at Clubbed Thumb, directed by Hal Brooks. Photo by Carl Skutsch.

Read Sample

1.

In black: Silence.

Then:

Jungle sounds. Foliage, birds, moisture.

Pinlight up on THE APE, draped over a great gnarled log. She reclines halfway, Odalisque, elegant and weary. She is barefoot; she wears Chanel. She does not wear an ape suit.

THE APE lifts her big hand, a stalk of celery in it. She works the celery into her mouth contemplatively, grinding it into her face as if feeding a tree branch into a chipper--leaves and all.

THE APE’s every movement is animal, heedless and perfect, uncontaminated by ambivalence.

Jungle sounds build.

We watch THE APE, spotlit, as through the peephole end of an Easter egg: odd figure in an odd world.

THE APE
(even, calm)
I chew. I swallow. I recognize the vegetable. I drop my hand with the vegetable, forget the vegetable. A breeze. I swell my chest to it. Light comes from every direction here. Light comes from the ceiling, someone left the ceiling open here. I stretch myself out on what they have for me to lie on. I smell the air; it smells like buildings here. I smack my lips. I close my lips like a purse over my yellow teeth.

Sudden shift, to which THE APE does not react:

Lights snap up, fluorescent and dry, to reveal THE APE in her enclosure, upstage behind the glass--but there is no glass. Jungle sounds out. THE ZOO GOERS are revealed, played by C, downstage facing out. The instant the shift occurs THE ZOO GOERS are talking.

THE ZOO GOERS
(quick--pirouettes of talk)
Mom look. I’m looking. Oh my gosh it’s so realistic. Why’s he just lying there? He’s just chillin. No you’re gonna see in a second, like--voom! He’s gonna get up and start beating the ground. They look so much like people, how do people not believe in evolution? Hey Aliss, Alissa, lookit the gorilla. Hi gorilla. Hi gorilla. Why won’t he say hi. Anna stop it, you wouldn’t do that if there wasn’t glass there. Okay guys we saw him. Come on Rachel. Zach, come on, we’re going to the next thing. We’re going to see the movie about gorillas. Say bye bye monkey. Bye bye monkey. Bye bye monkey. Bye bye. Bye bye.

Lights: abrupt, total.

2.

Holiday-Inn yellow light up on the counseling room. Fake wood desk, phalanx of Holiday-Inn-uncomfortable chairs on either side. Manila file folder full of papers open on the desk.

BRODIE--practical, wry, calm--and RHIANNON--ponytailed, peppy, outstanding--are on their feet, about to shake hands. DOROTHY--assembled, aloof--sits beside RHIANNON.

RHIANNON seizes BRODIE’s hand and shakes it vigorously.

BRODIE
Sarah Brodie. You can call me Brodie.

RHIANNON
Great, that’s what you prefer to go by? Brodie? Great.

RHIANNON drops BRODIE’s hand to make a note of this in the open file on the desk.

BRODIE
It’s what everyone calls me.

RHIANNON drops her ball point and as abruptly re-grasps BRODIE’s hand, resumes the shake.

RHIANNON
Great, it’s great to meet you, Brodie. (an explanation) So I’m Rhiannon Doyle.

BRODIE
(pleasant)
Rhiannon, is that as in rings like a bell through the night? And wouldn’t you love to love her?

RHIANNON
Oh, um, yes, my parents really loved that song when it came out.

BRODIE
(ha ha--I’m old enough to be your mother)
So did I.

RHIANNON
(cheerful, blank)
Uh-hunh.

BRODIE turns to DOROTHY.

BRODIE
And you are?

RHIANNON
Oh this is Dorothy Amberson, my mentor. She’s going to be observing me today.

DOROTHY
How are you.

BRODIE
Nice to meet you.

BRODIE and DOROTHY shake briefly. DOROTHY does not stand.

RHIANNON
She’s not going to be speaking or participating, she’s just going to be observing.

BRODIE
(to RHIANNON)
First day on the job?

RHIANNON
Oh no, oh no, we’re just coming to the end of my transitional period. For the first two months all the new counselors work under the supervision of a mentor counselor and then the mentor counselor phases out. Dorothy’s phasing out right now.

BRODIE
Before our very eyes?

DOROTHY
Feel free to ignore me, I’m used to it.

BRODIE raises her eyebrows, takes a breath to say something but RHIANNON jumps in.

RHIANNON
Okay great, so why don’t we get started. I usually like to start with a few basic questions just to give me a sense of where things are.

BRODIE
By all means.

RHIANNON
And I also like to give clients a heads-up that some of the questions I’ll be asking today might feel pretty personal, we will be getting into some pretty personal areas today, but the reason I ask is only because I want to get as complete a picture of you as I can, so I can be really thorough about finding red flags. Okay?

BRODIE
Okay.

RHIANNON
Okay great, so if you’ll just do your best to answer as honestly as possible that’ll be great.

BRODIE
I’ll do my best.

RHIANNON
Great. Okay.
(RHIANNON emits a satisfied little sigh, looks down at the open file to prompt her)
Okay so first of all name, that’s covered--Brodie. And is this your first pregnancy, Brodie?

BRODIE
It is.

RHIANNON
Great. And how many weeks since your last menstrual period?

BRODIE
Twelve and a half.

RHIANNON notes this.

RHIANNON
Great, okay, and your date of birth?

BRODIE
It’s not on the chart there? That my OB faxed over?

RHIANNON
It is, yes, on the chart, I just want to confirm it for our records.

BRODIE
Nine twenty-one sixty-eight.

RHIANNON
Great, so that makes you...

BRODIE
Forty-two.

RHIANNON
Great. And is this pregnancy planned or unplanned?

BRODIE
Um...

RHIANNON
Okay, I know this might feel like one of those pretty personal questions I was talking about, but the reason I ask is just informational, so I can help you make decisions later on. In case I have to help you make decisions later on.

BRODIE glances briefly at DOROTHY, back to RHIANNON.

BRODIE
People like me plan our pregnancies.

RHIANNON
People, you mean like older moms?

BRODIE
I mean like lesbians.

RHIANNON
(medium. high. low.)
Oh. Oh. Oh.

She nods a little too vigorously.

BRODIE
We don’t typically get accidentally knocked up.

RHIANNON laughs to show she’s not uncomfortable.

RHIANNON
No, you wouldn’t, would you!
(she laughs again, musically)
Well great. So okay then, huh, I’m just wondering about this series of questions about your husband then, do I just...skip them I wonder, or...?

RHIANNON looks sideways at DOROTHY.

BRODIE
I’m guessing no.

DOROTHY shakes her head slightly.

RHIANNON
No of course, no I’m sorry, you just threw me for a loop for a second there--you’re my first lesbian!

BRODIE
It’s a pleasure.

RHIANNON
But okay yes, I am still going to need to ask you about the father--

BRODIE
Donor.

RHIANNON
Right, yes, because we will need his medical history today. So do you, I mean, is he available?

BRODIE
I happen to have him right here.

BRODIE reaches into a briefcase by her feet and pulls out a dossier in a manila folder, hands it over to RHIANNON, who reads off it.

RHIANNON
Number Six Three Nine.
(RHIANNON begins to page through the dossier, increasingly impressed)
Wow, great. This is great.

BRODIE
Yes, they’re very thorough at CryoBank.

DOROTHY leans in to read over RHIANNON’s shoulder.

RHIANNON
Wow, I’ve never actually seen a donor profile before. (showing DOROTHY) They’ve got morbidity going back three generations, a full cancer tree, CMV infection--CMV infection, that’s crazy! (to BRODIE) Most actual people who come in here have no idea what their CMV status is.

BRODIE
What’s CMV?

RHIANNON
(dismissive)
Oh, cytomegalovirus, it’s not important.

BRODIE
Cytomegalovirus is not important?

RHIANNON
You really don’t need to know about it, I wasn’t even going to mention it. But it’s great that this has it, and he’s negative, too, which is great.

DOROTHY has eased the profile over into her viewing range, reads.

DOROTHY
“I am an outgoing and laid back and fun-loving guy. I get along with everyone and I like hanging out. My interests include stand-up comedy, kayaking, and hanging out with friends. I think this is a great opportunity to help other people while supporting myself as a sound engineering student.”

BRODIE
Nice, right? Vigorous-sounding.

DOROTHY smiles, takes a breath to respond to that but RHIANNON reinserts herself into the center of the moment.

RHIANNON
Great, so if I can, if you don’t mind?

DOROTHY nods, recedes.

RHIANNON (cont’d)
Okay so before I get into your history, Brodie, I just wanted to ask if there are any red flags you know about that you want to discuss up front. Any heritable diseases or other risk factors that you already know are on the table?

BRODIE
Not that I know of.

RHIANNON
So just your age.

DOROTHY casts a look in RHIANNON’s direction; RHIANNON misses it.

BRODIE
Right, I guess, just my age--

RHIANNON
(apologetic)
Because, you know, one of the things we do have to tell people is that increased maternal age does increase the risk of birth defects.

BRODIE
Yes, I know.

RHIANNON
Of course the majority of pregnancies are uneventful, but it is true that for women over forty the overall risk of birth defects does actually go up to one in one hundred.

BRODIE
Yes, I understand, that’s why I’m here.

RHIANNON
I know those statistics can be a little scary to hear, but--

BRODIE
No, I’m not scared of statistics.

RHIANNON
Great, that’s great.

BRODIE
You know, I don’t know what kind of person is usually sitting here across from you, but I didn’t come here so you could convince me about amniocentesis, I came because I know I want the test.

RHIANNON
Oh, great.

BRODIE
I understand my situation. I waited a long time to get pregnant and now I’m perched on a statistical precipice, I get it.

RHIANNON
Great.

BRODIE addresses most of the following to DOROTHY.

BRODIE
Not that I’m cavalier about having put myself in this position, I’m not a reckless person. I just, you know, I spent my twenties and the better part of my thirties working extremely extremely hard, my research involves a great deal of travel and I spent years at a time in remote, isolated areas, and then I was on the tenure clock which you may or may not know is designed to suit the needs of young married men with stay-at-home wives and which absorbed all my energy until fairly recently, and then the all-consuming grant proposals, and when I finally did feel like I had the financial and institutional and, ah, emotional stability to turn my attention to this part of my life I was, you know, it was now.

RHIANNON
Sure.

BRODIE
I understand that there’s risk involved in what I’ve done. But it was my choice to do it, it’s my choice to have the test, and I’m prepared to make a new choice if it turns out something’s wrong.

RHIANNON
Great. Great. That’s great to hear.

Lights.

Cast Requirements

3 women

Production and Development History

Produced by: Clubbed Thumb, Summerworks, Ohio Theatre, NY (2009); City Theatre, Pittsburgh (2011); Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Chicago (2011); Cornell University Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, Ithaca (2011); Shotgun Players, Berkeley (2012); Annex Theatre, Seattle (2013); Gadfly Theatre, Minneapolis (2014).

Upcoming: Defunkt Theatre, Portland (2015); Matrix Theatre, Detroit (2015).

Developed: About Face Theatre, Chicago (2009); Clubbed Thumb Boot Camp Workshop, NY (2009); Soho Rep, NY (2008).

Written in the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab 2007/2008.