Good theater makes you think as you leave the theater. Excellent theater makes you think while watching the scenes unfold before you. That is exactly what David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People does. Set in “Southie” on Boston’s Lower End, Good People tells the story of Margie (Virginia S. Burke) a single mother with an adult daughter Joyce who has developmental disabilities (who we never see). In the first scene Margie is fired from her job as a cashier at the dollar store. As she begins her search for her next employer she is supported by long time friends (and scene stealers) Dottie (Jane Hammill) and Jeanie (Angela Timberman). These two provide tons of laughs with their constant bickering and needling of each other. They are also the support system Margie has counted on for years when she needs help with her daughter Joyce.
At Jeanie’s urging Margie reluctantly seeks out the help of Mike, a friend from back in the day who is now a doctor, for a job in his practice. The first interaction between Margie and Mike (James Denton of TV’s Desperate Housewives) was spectacular. Denton’s Mike was cagey, aloof and guarded. While Burke’s Margie was tough and acted as though they last saw each other yesterday…not 20 plus years ago. At one point Margie says Mike “looks like a guy from TV.” This of course got a huge roar of laughter from the audience. Margie manages to invite herself to a very reluctant Mike’s birthday party. As act one closes Margie receives a call that the party has been cancelled due to Mike’s sick daughter. Margie, however believes the party is still on and that she was un-invited.
Act two is where we find all the drama. Margie makes the trek to Mike’s house out in the suburbs expecting to find the party isn’t cancelled. Mike’s wife Kate (Hope Cervantes) invites Margie in mistaking her for a worker sent by the catering company to collect tables and chairs. The only flaw I saw in Good People was Cervantes’ Kate seemed over acted. Too perfect. I know the character is written as though everything is perfect in her life; perfect marriage, perfect daughter, perfect job, perfect home, but there was something about the performance for me that didn’t work.
As Margie and Kate discuss what Mike was like growing up and how he was fortunate to get out of Southie and make something of himself. It becomes clear Margie is envious Mike was able to rise above his Southie upbringing and make something of himself. He had all the right opportunities and support needed to get out of the projects. Which leads Margie to wonder what if…what if she didn’t get pregnant so young? What if she had supporting parents? What if she went to college? What if she didn’t repeat a grade? Would she be living Mike’s life? Or maybe be a part of it? The what if’s Marge brings up makes you think about your own situation…what if you made the opposite choice at a pivotal point in your life? How much different would your life be?
Good People is directed by Joel Sass and is running at the Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul though October 6. For more information or tickets visit their website.