Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's 2015-2016 Remembering the Theatre Season That Was
Directed by Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte, every member of the cast in this production is excellent. Rebecca Dines as protagonist Margie, way down and out on her luck, managed to invoke my sympathy for a good deal of the two acts. It was only after the climactic scene that she lost me, but at that point the character is hard to love. Peter Reardon shines as Mike, the man who managed to climb out of South Boston and its projects, and Renata Eastlick is superb as his wife, to the manner born and standing out for that, since all of the other characters have their rough edges. What makes her performance even more remarkable is that I saw her in August Wilson's Two Trains Running a few years ago, playing someone of an entirely different class and doing so remarkably. This woman has great range.
Bonnie Agan as Margie's landlady Dottie and Vickie Daignault as gal pal Jean are both terrific; I could really feel the female bonding that has taken place over years of struggling through life together. Britt Michael Gordon creates three dimensions out of the somewhat underwritten character of Stevie. All of the Boston accents are quite good, thanks to dialect coach Kris Danford, perhaps a little thicker than necessary.
I always say, when there is a stage full of fine acting, look to a fine director. Last year I saw Ms. Gularte's first production in her inaugural season as Producing Artistic Director of this company, a fine production of Intimate Apparel. The 2015-16 season was one she inherited, chosen by the board of directors and an interim director. Her choices for 2016-17 include several very interesting plays, especially late in the season, so right now I have great hopes for American Stage under her leadership.
Frank Chavez is responsible for the scenic design of this production and it is brilliant. The scenes that are set in South Boston all have that lived in too long feeling, but when we get to the doctor's home in Chestnut Hill, a very toney suburb of Boston (actually part of Newton for you nit-pickers), it completely feels nouveau riche gone wild and also understated at the same time. Becki Leigh's costumes convey the characters well but are not as important a piece as the set. Lighting design by Dan Covey helps differentiate Southie and Newton, and property designer Jerid Fox has done his usual exemplary work. All these elements serve the director's view, so that the production is a completely unified whole.
Now I know that I was right, Good People is a superb play and American Stage's production delivers all of its emotional highs and lows. Bay Area theatergoers, do not miss this brilliant production.
Good People at American Stage Theatre Company, through October 2, 2016, 163 Third Street North, St. Petersburg. For more information, visit www.americanstage.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):
Direction/Sound Design: Stephanie Gularte