Precious Little

is a thoughtful meditation on life, language and love — and it's exactly what Auckland theatre needs in the middle of winter.

Written by American author Madeleine George and produced by burgeoning theatre company Navi Collaborative, it's an intimate chamber play that traces three intersecting dramas.

Linguist Sarah Brodie (Jessi Williams) occupies the eye of the storm: a woman committed to preserving an endangered language and working tirelessly with one of its last known speakers to capture the voiced nuances. However, Brodie's unwavering reliance on language and intellect begins to waver when an amniocentesis test reveals there may be something wrong (major, minor or maybe nothing at all) with her unborn baby.

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As a single lesbian mother, she spins in a world where her supporters are well-intentioned at best: a youthful lover (Courtney Eggleton) who can't seem to understand that the unborn child has now moved beyond a clump of homogeneous cells and an elderly woman (Catherine Maunsell) who despite suffering from a myriad of conditions, has found renewed language skills almost 50 years later. In the midst of all of this, Brodie begins to visit a gorilla at the zoo (also played by Maunsell) and finds solace in its strangely human-like behaviour.

All three actresses give compelling performances. Williams, by turn both hardened and vulnerable, is a focal point while both Maunsell and Eggleton play a range of characters with finesse.

Patricia Wichman's direction is compassionate and thoughtful, highlighting her characters' subtle development and creating genuine pathos. Dawn Glover's set design is both simple and effective, with language markings across multiple surfaces and a central enclosure for the gorilla. Amanda Tito's subtle lighting design complements the overall aesthetic choices.

If you're looking for an organised narrative arc, this pithy drama may leave you with some unresolved questions but as a reflection on intersections of age, gender and relationships it certainly ticks all the right boxes.

Lowdown
What: Precious Little
Where & when: Basement Studio, until Saturday
Reviewed by: Dione Joseph