Good People offers intellectual and emotional challenges to the audience. The play is about good peopleor people who think they are good people. Yet, they do things designed to hurt others. One action triggers a storm of actions that bring out the best and worst in the characters.
David Lindsay-Abaire (playwright) received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for his play Rabbit Hole. He wrote the script for the movie Oz: The Great and Powerful. In his work Lindsay-Abaire usually explores relationships within a family or circle of friends.
Single parent Margaret can't leave for work at the Dollar Store until the child sitter arrives. Often the sitter is late. Consequently, Margaret is late for work most mornings. Stevie, her boss at the store, is directed by his supervisor to terminate Margaret. She begs for her job; he insists he has no choice. She must leave or he'll be fired.
Dottie, Margaret's landlady, tells Margaret she must pay the rent or move out. Margaret's friend Jean suggests she call on Mike Dillon, whom Margaret dated for a while in high school. Perhaps Mike can lead her to a job. Mike is now a doctor, with a rare specialty, having moved out of Boston's Lower End and into an affluent Boston suburb.
According to Margaret, Mike had the support of family and friends to attend school and become successful. Mike thinks life is a matter of making choices. He made choice that made him financially and professionally successful. Margaret did not.
Mike insists he doesn't have a job in his office for Margaret and he doesn't know anyone who might have a job for her. After she goads him for an invitation, he finally relents and tells her to come to a large party he is having and maybe one of his friends will know of a job. The party is cancelled because Mike's daughter is ill, but Margaret thinks he has lied about the illness and she is the only guest to show up for the party.
As the she story progresses, the good people reveal they're not-so-good people. Margaret is abrasive and bitter because her life has turned out poorly. In truth, she doesn't have the skills employers look for when they hire. For Margaret, a job at the Dollar Store may be the peak of her career and the ultimate test of her skills. But she becomes more resentful when she sees the house Mike lives in and how beautifully appointed it is.
Mike wants to distance himself from his poor roots and the people he knew in the earlier part of his life.
Laura Kepley has done an excellent job directing Good People. She succeeds in helping her characters be both good and abrasive. As the story unfolded, I found myself identifying with each character in turnboth the good or sympathetic qualities and the bad or difficult qualities.
The cast is uniformly excellent. Kate Hodge, as Margaret, wins our hearts and then becomes so difficult that it's easy to want to distance ourselves from her. This is the role which earned a Tony Award for Frances McDormand.
David Andrew Macdonald is handsome and robust. If anyone knows where a job is hidden, his Mike should know. Macdonald has a powerful voice and mercury-like he moves from sympathetic to resentful and mean. He develops a character who has the street smarts to destroy an ex-girlfriend and not have any remorse.
Unfortunately, Good People has a limited run. I suspect this production could have been an audience favorite for several months.
Cleveland Play House Good People through April 14 at The Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare
- David Ritchey