Of course, the flip side to this celebration of the "winner" ethos is contempt for the "loser," a pitiless trope espoused on the right that plays out endlessly in our harsh political landscape.
Good People, playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s cogent character-driven drama (it won the Tony for Best Play in 2011), casts a sympathetic eye on the real-world consequences of this conceit, pitting a struggling single mother with little left to lose against her former friend and (briefly) lover, now an affluent and successful physician.
Both Margie (Kia Hellman) and Mike (Shayne Anderson) grew up in a seedy neighborhood is South Boston where money is sparse but identity with and loyalty to the community are strong. Margie, who never got out, struggles to support her grown, mentally disabled daughter on a $9.25-an-hour job at the Dollar Store.
When she loses the job due to chronic lateness brought on by her burdens at home, she reluctantly drops by the medical office of Mike, newly resettled in Boston, to inquire if he might have work available. Polite but wary and uncomfortable, he declines to help, but one thing leads to another and somehow he ends up inviting her to his birthday party at his tony home in an upscale neighborhood. There she meets his wife, Kate (Kelana Richard), a younger, attractive African-American woman who is the daughter of a doctor and met Mike when her father was his mentor.
Strong-minded and kind, Kate is at first sympathetic to Margie’s plight and tries to help her, until Margie, incapable of self-censoring, tells tales that make her unwittingly appear a liar and a fraud.
Hellman depicts a heartrendingly raw and uncontrollably candid Margie, and she’s supported by accomplished performances from Anderson and Richard as the privileged couple, and Marsha Morgan and Laurie House as her Saturday night bingo buddies. As Margie’s opinionated and xenophobic landlady, who claims to be her friend but will toss her out on a moment’s notice if the rent isn’t paid, Morgan is a standout.
Lindsay-Abaire grew up in South Boston, as is evident in the insightful compassion with which he’s drawn each of these characters and the familiar down-home dialogue that consistently rings true. The staging is spare and constrained by the limits of the venue, but director Christine Dunford oversees a quality ensemble in an excellent play that's worth checking out.
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