“Good People” has all the pieces to make for great theater: Director, Daniel Sullivan (“Proof”, “Rabbit Hole”), Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole”, Tony Awards for “Shrek the Musical”) and of course a cast led by Academy Award winner, Francis McDormand, Tate Donovan (“Damages”) and Estelle Parsons (“August: Osage County”, “Roseanne”). With the above ingredients in place, “Good People” delivers a touching and hilarious slice of life centered around Margaret (Frances McDormand) who loses her job as a cashier at a dollar store in South Boston’s Lower End. With little work experience, a mentally challenged daughter to raise and no one hiring Margaret faces a bleak future. With added pressure from her landlord, Dottie (Parsons) but, support from her friend, Jean (Becky Ann Baker), Margaret takes the latter’s advice to visit and old childhood friend from the hood, Mike (Tate Donovan) who has done well for himself with his own doctor’s practice. The reunion between Margaret and Mike at Mike’s office is a combination of childhood memories and awkward moments of their lives today between two grown adults who haven’t seen each other in years but, clearly fall on opposite socioeconomic stratospheres. Through Margaret’s persuasive demeanor and passive aggressive nature, she convinces Mike to invite her to an upcoming party he and his wife are throwing in their comfortable home in Chestnut Hill, MA.
The cast of “Good People” embodies the lives of these characters reflecting a realistic portrayal of working class daily life, economic struggles, and the intersection our lives sometimes take from childhood to adulthood. Although Tate Donovan (Mike) and Patrick Carroll (Stevie) do a fine job with their roles, it’s the women in the cast who shine leading the pack with Frances McDormand. McDormand’s performance is so raw and real as she takes Lindsay-Abaire’s script and infuses it with a skittish neurosis portraying a woman who is down and out resorting to desperate measures. The audience is conflicted with feelings of empathy while squinting with notions of discomfort for Margaret’s brash behavior. Estelle Parsons will make you laugh even before opening her mouth as she dons a mixed hodge podge of clothing and accessories, including ankle high socks with heels and a purple silk bandanna to push back her blond baby doll hair do. The two Bingo scenes with Dottie, Margaret and Jean are brilliantly acted making this the most entertaining bingo matches ever played! Becky Ann Baker who plays Jean is great supporting Margaret while being able to match Dottie’s sharp tongue and wit. Finally, Renee Elise Goldsberry who plays Kate, Mike’s wife is truly a pleasure to watch on stage. Her timing and delivery make an otherwise forgettable part one of the most memorable characters balancing naivete, emotions and humor throughout her entire performance.
“Good People” is a look at one woman’s struggle to find a job when no one is hiring and with limited skills. The play is a good reminder that though larger cities across the country are seemingly out of the recession, smaller cities are still struggling to get back on their feet. As we continue to connect with people from our past via Facebook etc., we’re reminded how many of us have changed dramatically and others have stayed the same. The play also looks at issues of pride that we hold and the support we often take for granted from our true friendships.
“Good People” plays through May 29th at The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. For tickets go to: www.broadwaycom.com