Author Archive for: ‘suzanneangeo’
Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo
Photos by Ed Smith
Good People is Brilliantly-Crafted, Compelling Start to MTC’s New Season
As its 2013-2014 season opener, Marin Theatre Company has chosen Good People, a Broadway hit in its Bay Area premiere. The story is provocative; the vivid characters sparkle like gems in a setting of steel. Playwright, screenwriter and lyricist David Lindsay-Abaire has won the Pulitzer Prize (Rabbit Hole), and was nominated for a Grammy and several Tony Awards (Shrek the Musical, Rabbit Hole). Good People opened on Broadway in 2011 and garnered him yet another Tony nod.
With humor and brutal honesty, Good People suggests that the choices we make are not always our own, and that some of us are not able to make choices that put us on the path to success, or even stability. We see Margaret, a hardscrabble single mom, struggling to hold her life together as she cares for her special-needs adult daughter in Southie, a working-class Irish section of south Boston. She’s got her neighborhood pals Jean and Dottie to lean on, but no thanks to her boss Stevie, life is tough and getting tougher by the minute. Her encounter with Mike, an old high-school boyfriend, promises to be a game-changer.
Amy Resnick as Margaret – Margie to her pals – is likeable and authentic in her role, as familiar as a favorite pair of jeans. Margie’s often given to outbursts where she ends up not-really apologizing, with trademark lines like “pardon my French” and ”I’m just bustin’ balls”. Sympathetic but confusing, she’s painfully blunt and seems to take pride in looking foolish or crude. But we soon learn that she’s reluctant to take action in simple, honest ways that could make life easier for herself and her daughter. Is she truly proud of who she is, or is she so invested in her Southie identity that she is unable or unwilling to change it?
Mark Anderson Phillips is Mike, Margie’s former flame from the old neighborhood. In a masterful performance, Phillips shows us hints of zaniness, anarchy and fear lurking just below Mike’s smooth surface. Now a successful doctor, Mike fondly endures Margie’s digs about becoming “lace-curtain Irish”, a reference to his moving up in the world. Later on, Margie visits the home of Mike and his elegant young African-American wife Kate, played with compassionate sophistication by ZZ Moor. It ends up being a night of unraveling and uproar, with Mike showing his true colors and Kate challenging Margie’s life choices.
Margie’s best friends Dottie (Ann Darragh) and Jean (Jamie Jones) are so endearing, and offer such skillful comic relief that you wish you could have them over for the weekend. Between bingo games and swapping tales, these ladies are the heart of the story, which has a satisfying conclusion after the convoluted road it travels to get there.
An unforeseen event threatened one recent matinee performance: Ben Euphrat, who plays Stevie, got stuck in traffic from the Bay Bridge closure and missed the first scene, a crucial one with Resnick that establishes the entire storyline. Phillips covered the part, script in hand, and even though he performed well, Euphrat’s absence threw the beginning of the first act off-kilter. He did finally arrive in time for his next scene and hit the ground running, fully recovering the momentum of the show and turning in a fine performance.
Direction by Tracy Young in her MTC debut is inventive yet efficient, keeping the cast in almost constant motion. Nina Ball’s clean and simple set design allows for effortless scene changes. Young makes use of the clever set platforms that roll backwards or forwards, sometimes while the actors are still performing. Sliding backdrop partitions come and go from the wings on either side. Thus the stage is transformed: from an alleyway to a doctor’s office to a bingo hall; from a subway platform to a high-class home. The gritty urban-rock score, used in between scenes by composer Chris Houston, keeps the energy level high throughout the show.
There are no heroes or villains in Good People. It takes us on a journey to a place where we can stand and peer into the age-old abyss between the classes. It raises questions that have no easy answers, but that need to be asked anyway.
When: now through September 15, 2013
8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
7:30 p.m. Wednesdays
2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays
2 p.m. Saturday, September 14
1 p.m. Thursday, September 5
Tickets: $37 to $58
Location: Marin Theatre Company
397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley CA 94941