I have cried in the theatre during a moving play. But I’ve never wept on the train on the way home after a moving play.
Steppenwolf Theatre presents GOOD PEOPLE. Margie just got fired. Rent is due. No one is hiring. And her thirty year old mentally retarded daughter has special needs. She hears her high school boyfriend Mike is back in the old neighborhood. Well, not quite. Mike is a successful doctor and resides in the *nice part* of Boston. Margie decides to hit him up for a job. The reunion is a clash of the past and present, southies and lace curtained, poor and rich. During the forced encounter, Margie goads Mike into inviting her to his birthday party. Later, Mike cancels the party but Margie decides to crash it anyway. GOOD PEOPLE is a disturbingly authentic and humorous search for human decency.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire did go home again. Lindsay-Abaire masterfully captures the gritty struggle of Boston south-siders. He creates these real characters with real problems and real flaws. Throughout the show, our empathies shift as information is disclosed. The last twenty minutes becomes this emotional roller coaster of gut-punching reveals. The dialogue crackles with caustic self-absorption. And everybody’s character is under scrutiny for what they are doing and what they are not doing.
Under the direction of K. Todd Freeman and perfectly casted by Erica Daniels, this ensemble is sublime! They captivate on arrival. I feel like I stepped off of Halsted and into Boston. From the garbage infused alley behind the Dollar Store to the stunning physician’s home in Chestnut Hills, Scenic Designer Walt Spangler aids our East Coast visit with dynamic backdrops that seamlessly roll in and out of the action. Spectacular! And perfectly matching the multiple settings, the cast invites you in for coffee, bingo, or cheese. The welcome may not always be honest but the personal performances are.
In the lead, Mariann Mayberry (Margie) is the genuine thing, a complex human being. She is not the ideal heroine. Mayberry is a pushy, manipulator. She’s often unlikeable. But as her past is revealed her harsh edges soften. Mayberry is outstanding at pulling us in and pushing us away… a lot! A sophisticated Alana Arenas (Kate) contrasts her perfectly. Arenas delivers her lines with poised moxie or hilarious finesse. The man juggling his past and present, Keith Kupferer (Mike) simmers and then boils over with intensity. Bringing homespun crafts and comedy, a daft Molly Regan (Dottie), tough-talking Lusia Strus (Jean), earnest Will Allan (Stevie) showcase the funny side of Bingo as the great white hope for Boston’s south side.
Who are the GOOD PEOPLE? The show must be experienced to make that determination. The lingering effects of this human examination left me feeling hopeful and hopeless. I’m ashamed and proud of my past. I will try to be a better person to those in need. And I am definitely resolved to appreciate that we are all just a *G55* away from a big win or a big loss. Life is a combo of perseverance and luck.
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes includes an intermission
At Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by K. Todd Freeman
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays at 7:30
Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm
Thru November 17th
Buy Tickets at www.steppenwolf.org