Mother Tongue

In Precious Little, which premieres tonight at Shotgun Players, veteran actress Nancy Carlin plays three characters, two of them called “The Baby” and “The Ape.” Madeleine George’s play is deeply concerned with, as she has said, “the limits but also the luxuries of language,” and the central character, Brodie (Zehra Berkman), is neither infant nor simian but a professional linguist who works with large apes, precisely the kind of person who should have a finer grasp of language’s luxuries. But as the play opens, Brodie is in a language-defying situation. She’s a single lesbian who wants to have a child now that she’s off “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.” In other words, she’s 42 and is at high risks for birth defects -- so high that many at her point might opt out of giving birth at all. Brodie’s fetus is in danger of having no language ability; it’s like Mr. Holland’s Opus for philology. George, a member of the prestigious playwrights’ collaborative 13P, aspires to write plays that make audiences “weep and think, preferably simultaneously.” Marissa Wolf directs the tender comedy about maternity and language, babies and primates.
Wednesdays-Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mon., Aug. 20, 8 p.m. Starts: Aug. 18. Continues through Sept. 9, 2012

 
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