Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire won a Pulitzer Prize for his play, Rabbit Hole, which was his first foray into naturalism. His previous work could be classified as absurdist comedy. Many fans never forgave him for what they consider selling out, as we miss the loopy darkness of Fuddy Meers. However, Good People, a realistic dramady, in my opinion is a superior play to Rabbit Hole and it is a whole lot more entertaining. Abaire goes back to his roots of South Boston and gives us a fantastic protagonist in Margaret (Margie) a recently fired dollar store cashier who is struggling to pay her rent while looking after her adult mentally and intellectually challenged daughter. When her best friend Jean (played by the superb Elizabeth Rich) tells her that her old flame from the neighborhood, who is now an extremely successful doctor, is back in town, Margie goes to hit him up for a job. Mike and Margie grew up together in the tough side of town and were briefly involved as teenagers. Mike (played by ex Guiding Light star David Andrew Macdonald) has a young beautiful wife and a thriving business as a reproductive endocrinologist. He has a big house in Chestnut Hill and calls himself “comfortable,” Margie calls him rich and lives in a shabby basement apartment. Although they both came from the same neighborhood, they live in different worlds now.
Kate Hodge is fantastic as the desperate, proud, funny, manipulative survivor Margie. Abaire has created a complex, real character who invokes sympathy and empathy even when her intentions and motives aren’t always good and or clear. Hodge’s Margie is specific, without ever being a caricature. A lesser actress might fall into kitchen sink drama shrill, weepy or righteous portrayals. Hodge will have none of this, and I bet Abaire is very happy with her work here. The working class poor are presented with authenticity, humor and compassion in Good People. Along with Jean and Margie there is Dottie (played by Denny Dillion), Margie’s landlord and sometimes friend who helps care for Margie’s daughter, while constantly hawking her homemade craft rabbits. The diminutive Dillion is dynamite in this role. She is hysterical and even though she is Margie’s landlord, she like everyone else in the South End dreams of getting out. The last of the working class group is Stevie who is Margie’s former boss. He is played by Patrick Halley. If ever there was a face that fits a part perfectly, it is Halley and Stevie. Curly haired and chubby cheeked, Halley is ernest and much more likeable than he appears to be. He is totally credible.
When Mike calls Margie and cancels a party that he invited her to at his Chestnut Hill house with his rich friends, Margie suspects he is lying and crashes anyway. Margie’s visit to Mike’s house is the crux of the second act, and here Abaire shows his impressive skills as a dramatist. In a play full of surprises it is no surprise that Mike’s wife Kate (played by Zoey Martinson) is not a cold bitch, but she is warm and highly likeable. As with all great second acts, secrets and true character motives are revealed and examined. Abaire’s ability to touch on subjects of race, the economy, the class system, and just simple luck are never obvious and are weaved throughout a very entertaining, funny and character driven look at modern America.
Well directed by Laura Kepley and extremely well acted by the entire cast, Good People
is a brilliant play and a highly satisfactory theater experience. Syracuse Stage
has done it again-brought us a sublime production.