One of my biggest fears in life is to wake up someday in more or less the same circumstances as Margie Walsh from David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People (now playing at Scripps Ranch Theatre through February 26 under the direction of Eric Poppick). Margie (Heidi Bridges) is probably about 50 when she gets canned from her job at the Dollar Store and finds herself facing destitution with no immediate relief in sight.
Now, I’m creative enough to think of things “worse” than Margie’s situation: developing locked-in syndrome, and nobody figures it out; being falsely accused of war crimes before the International Criminal Court in the The Hague — my mother would be so embarrassed; nuclear war that leaves the Earth a blighted wasteland where savage mutant life forms prey on the helpless survivors of the human race. I alone would hold the future of humanity (perhaps a few precious seeds sealed in a lead casket for when the radiation dies down to levels that will support agriculture), and I would live my life in constant peril of failing my mission to guard the future.
Of course, none of these doomsday scenarios are at all practical, which underscores the sadness of Margie’s situation, for her plight is tragically real. Living hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck, with every bill a month late because the money went to pay some other bill that was even more overdue; that’s fine and dandy at age 22. But for Margie Walsh (and scores of people in her situation) that shit is real, and it doesn’t matter if it’s because she made bad choices or because life kicked her in the teeth every time she dared to smile. Either way, it breaks my heart and fills me with acute dread at the prospect of walking a mile in Margie’s shoes. That she can face such bleakness, yet hold fast to her dignity for better (and usually for worse), is an ugly, twisted, poignant, and somehow noble vision of what it’s like to be a person living in the world.