Sunday, May 4, 2014

theatre review GOOD PEOPLE, Actors Theatre, April 27

Katie McFadzen, Cathy Dresbach and Maria Amorocho
Below are highlights from my review at Talkin' Broadway of Good People at Actors Theatre, click on this link to read the complete review.

David Lindsay-Abaire's Tony nominated Good People is a contemporary play that touches upon the modern-day class cycle and how the loss of a job can force someone to do things that they might not have otherwise done. It is also the story of a life that none of us would ever hope to live. The Actors Theatre is presenting this powerful play in an impressive production with an excellent cast and assured direction.

Good People is set in South Boston or "Southie," a working class neighborhood where Margie, a single mother in her late 40s, is about to be fired from her cashier job at a local dollar store. She's a minimum wage employee who's been fired because she has been late too many times. Margie has an adult special needs daughter at home whose caretaker was late getting to her, so Margie has a good reason for her tardiness, but that doesn't matter. You like Margie; she's had a tough life and has tried to make the best of it, but she lives within the lines and rules she's been given. She barely complains and is desperately trying to find a job, any job, which will help her pay her rent and care for her daughter. A chance meeting with Mike, a former high school boyfriend who is now a well off doctor, sets in motion the plot which focuses not only on Margie hopefully finding a job but on what would have happened if she and Mike hadn't broken up.

It is a play about the choices that people make and how those choices ultimately affect the people around them as well as the friends who become our family and life support system when times get bad. It is extremely funny and moving as well. I don't want to say much more about the plot as there are plenty of twists and revelations in it, but Lindsay-Abaire has written an interesting story that, while coming across a bit like a soap opera, has such rich characters and realistic dialogue and situations that you can imagine that there really are people like Margie and Mike out there who are living in similar circumstances. The title refers to using the term "good people" to say that someone has good character and upbringing. But, by the end of the play, we realize that even people who we might think are "good people" may not be, and that has to do with the way that Lindsay-Abaire has made almost all of the characters both villains and heroes. I especially like how even Stevie, the young man we don't really like because he has to fire Margie, comes back in the play in an important and positive way at the end.

Wiener has assembled a top-notch cast for this production, with some of the best actors in the Phoenix area, including a stellar performance by Katie McFadzen as a desperate Margie. The actress's ability to get across Margie's way of using non-stop talking to get out of any situation is perfectly played, as well as Margie's sense of pride. Margie is "good people" for sure. McFadzen also has a nice comic sensibility and easily shows the sense of humor that Margie never loses, even with all of her setbacks. It's a heartbreaking performance that McFadzen instills with an underlying sense of hope. And, while McFadzen's Boston accent isn't as thick as it probably should be, it is clear and consistent throughout.

While Good People presents characters and situations none of us would ever hope to encounter, the Actors Theatre production has a crackerjack cast who bring these characters to life. With such an excellent cast and notable direction, Actors Theatre scores again with their production of David Lindsay-Abaire's thought-provoking play.
The Actors Theatre production of Good People runs through May 11, 2014, with performances at the Arizona Opera Center, 1636 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix. Tickets can be ordered at or by calling (602) 888-0368.

Photo: John Groseclose

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