Who is this Anita Gates you speak of?

A.G.’s journalistic triumphs over 25 years at The New York Times include drinking with Bea Arthur (at a Trump hotel), Wendy Wasserstein (at an Italian restaurant) and Peter O’Toole (in his trailer on a mini-series set near Dublin). It is sheer coincidence that these people are now dead.

At The New York Times, she has been Arts & Leisure television editor and co-film editor, a theater reviewer on WQXR Radio, a film columnist for the Times TV Book and an editor in the Culture, Book Review, Travel, National, Foreign and Metro sections. Her first theater review for The Times appeared in 1997, assessing “Mrs. Cage,” a one-act about a housewife suspected of shooting her favorite supermarket box boy. The review was mixed.

Outside The Times, A.G. has been the author of four nonfiction books; a longtime writer for travel magazines, women's magazines and travel guidebooks; a lecturer at universities and for women’s groups; and a moderator for theater, book, film and television panels at the 92nd Street Y and the Paley Center for Media.

If she were a character on “Mad Men,” she’d be Peggy.

Three Women With Sex Lives, Together but Apart in 'Little Gem' at Irish Rep


BIRTH, DEATH, FLINGS AND LESS From left, Marsha Mason, Lauren O’Leary and Brenda Meaney as three generations of Irish women in “Little Gem.”

I HAPPEN TO LOVE Marsha Mason. I have, ever since she got all vulnerable with Richard Dreyfuss in the 1977 movie “The Goodbye Girl.” I do, even though she gave me the strangest look once, when I was moderating a 92nd Street Y panel on women in theater — probably because I’d just said something like “So, do any of you ladies have intense one-on-one relationships with one particular playwright?”

O.K., I hadn’t forgotten that Mason, who was sitting about six inches from me, had been married to Neil Simon for 10 years. I was just looking at the other end of the table on this giant stage and thinking about Marian Seldes and Edward Albee. But Mason’s eye-roll (in my direction) got a good laugh.

So I was very glad to see Mason in person again, appearing in “Little Gem” at Irish Rep. I was glad, even though her character’s first line was “I have an itch down there.”

The set, by Meredith Ries, looks like a doctor’s-office waiting room. That’s fitting enough, because the play — made up of alternating monologues by three actresses — involves (in addition to genital ailments) childbirth, a stroke and chronic sexual frustration. Happily, not all of these are suffered by the same person.

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HOPING NOT TO BE POSITIVE Amber (Lauren O’Leary) is worried about a pregnancy test.

Amber (Lauren O’Leary), who is blond, makes her entrance first, and she seems quite concerned about a pregnancy test. Lorraine (Brenda Meaney, in photo), a brunette in some lighting (a redhead in others), who is next, describes an unusual one-night stand — with some guy she met at a dance class.  She’s Amber’s mother. And then Mason, whose character name is Kay, comes onstage. She’s Lorraine’s mom. 

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THE STAND Lorraine (Brenda Meaney), who is Amber’s mom, has problems of her own.

It’s a family affair, but we don’t see the three women interact. Kay, who is closest to old age, has the last laugh — or at least the most trenchant observation, looking back at her and her husband’s life choices and medical histories. “All our clean living didn’t change a thing.” Kay also gets a vibrator, which/whom she names Kermit.

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Somebody must love Elaine Murphy’s “Little Gem.” It won the top prize at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival nine years ago. This New York production, directed by Marc Atkinson Borrull. was scheduled to close on Sept. 1 but has been extended an additional week.

My press-night guest, SOC, and I discussed things over drinks afterward and decided that few contemporary shows had failed the Bechdel test so thoroughly before. The Bechdel test, roughly defined: How much of female characters’ dialogue in film, television and theater is devoted to talking about men and their relationships with them?

SOC, who is a woman, and I (also a cis-gender female) went out for drinks across the street after the play. We talked about work, real estate, the pros and cons of freelancing, former colleagues, dogs, horses, travel, Italian digestivos (digestivi?) and theater.

Irish Repertory Theater, 132 West 22nd Street, irishrep.org. 1 hour 40 minutes (no intermission). Limited run. Extended through Sept. 8.

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