This play is a rarity among contemporary dramas, for two reasons. It is focuses on one person's travails, not on a dysfunctional family. And it lets that person, a single mother in her late 40s from impoverished South Boston, represent the angst that most playwrights prefer to pass over in silence: How our hypocrisy about race and gender and, most of all, class has robbed a whole segment of our society not just of opportunity but even of human dignity.
The play parallels the life of its director, Janet Davidson, and that intimacy comes through in the sensitivity of her direction. "I had to do this play," she explains in a director's note. "I'm not sure if any of my Irish ancestors would like the play, but I think they wold be proud of me for, in Margaret's words, 'getting out.'" Mansini does a truly masterful job of depicting the beleaguered Margaret, who reminded me of Ernest Hemingway's famous line that you can destroy a man but you can't defeat him. Margaret, too, is destroyed but not defeated, and, in the end, perhaps not even destroyed.
The supporting cast without exception carries the play forward, first through its expected crises and then through the twist that is entirely unanticipated: Vernon Poitras as Mike, the ex-boyfriend, Alisa Downing as his wife Kate, Stephen Weir as Margaret's unexpectedly sympathetic boss, and Lorri Layle Oliver and Jean Moran as the other two women in Margaret's small social circle. All seem to have mastered the intricacies of the unique Boston Irish accent.
An unusual aspect of the staging is that the numerous set changes are handled in full view of the audience by a trio of garbagemen, a young woman, and her two quarrelsome underlings who exchange witty asides while moving the furniture about.
Good People's last performances will be November 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Vortex. For tickets call 505-247-8600 or go to vortexabq.org.