Fresh on the heels of women’s marches all over the world, David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People perfectly highlights the heartbreaking struggles of working-class women in the shadow of male privilege.
Margaret, or Margie, a middle-aged woman born and raised on the south side of Boston, lives with and cares for her developmentally disabled daughter. Margie loses her job at the local dollar store, leaving her hard-pressed to know how she will pay next month’s rent to her landlady Dottie. Her childhood friend Jean does what she can to help Margie figure out how to find a job, even suggesting she meet with an old friend from the block – Mike, now a well-to-do doctor — to see if he can help her find employment.
Heidi Bridges as Margie embodies a tired-yet-determined mother who learns to be tough and stay tough. Margie, a complicated character, has layers of secrets, and Bridges never reveals any of them before the right time. Although at points her physicality labors, Bridges gains respect and admiration with her commendable performance.
A particularly powerful moment occurs between three characters: Margie, Mike (as played by Ted Leib), and Kate (Alexandra Slade). Leib juggles Mike, a doctor and former “Southie,” with the complexity of a man at times welcoming and at others, entitled. Slade as Kate, Mike’s young African-American wife, commands the scene despite sometimes being stuck wordless, grounding the three with her attention and reactions.
Susan Clausen as Jean, Maggie’s best friend, gets lots of laughs. Clausen maintains a loving, supportive nature that makes clear Jean is one of the “good people.” Kathi Copeland amuses as Dottie, Jean and Maggie’s frenemy, who owns the latter’s apartment. Copeland lands most of her jokes, but she lacks naivety that some of the lines require. Rounding out the cast, Kenny Bordieri plays Stevie, son of a childhood friend of the ladies. Bordieri, authentic and subtle, neither overpowers nor relents in his interactions.
The production’s use of Alliant International University’s Legler Benbough Theatre stands out. Scenic designer Bob Shuttleworth built a set in the round building with a wide stage that morphs and moves. During scene changes, doors and walls fold open and close, furniture appears, and less-mainstream Adele songs underscore and enhance the melancholic mood. Rather than asking the audience to ignore transitions, director Eric Poppick embraces their payoff and uses them as a time for the audience to unpack their feelings.
The actors seem to be starting off awkward, with clunky blocking and forced movement, but they get more into their bodies and emotions as the story goes on. This indicates that the show will get better over the course of its run — good because Lindsay-Abaire’s script shines. With colorful characters and witty writing, the choices we all make in our lives beautifully reflect in the life of Margie as she struggles as a single mother in a male-dominated world.
Playing through February 26