Langhorne Players third offering of the season is David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People. The work had a short run on Broadway and garnered two Tony awards. Not many will know the story. That’s a good thing. To miss this production would be a bad thing.
“You’re good people, Mikey. I always said that about you.”
So says Margaret, a “Southie” born-and-bred, to Mike, who escaped South Boston for a life as a successful fertility doctor. Margaret has barged into Mike’s office hoping he will find her a job. She uses the social pleasantry as much to sway him to help her as to convince herself that he is “good people.” He’s not, actually.
And it’s not that Margaret is necessarily a poor judge of character, she is just forgiving, and giving. She is “good people,” but hides it behind a sharp tongue that lashes out when she feels aggrieved.
And her old friend-made-good, Mike, does just that when Margaret shows up at his Boston office after he ignores her many phone messages. Margaret is so wounded by Mike’s rebuff that she hurls “lace-curtain Irish” his way. For a man who has a lucrative career, lovely family and fancy home, Mike is unusually sensitive to the insult of placing himself above his humble origins. He turns mean.
“I’m sorry if you made some bad choices in life,” Mike says to Margaret. “But that’s not my fault.”
Oh, the irony. Mike’s success is directly related to the one and only choice Margaret ever made.
Director Kathy Junkins, in her Director’s Note, says Good People is “about choices and the outcomes of those choices.” The thing is, poverty denies Margaret of having many options. She’s only had one real choice her entire life, and while it may not have altered her circumstances much, had she not made the one she did, it would have completely changed the outcome for another person.
That person is anything but grateful. That person is oblivious. You will be pleased with your choice should you opt to see Good People. You will laugh; you will cry. As per Langhorne Players usual high standards, the acting, directing, sets — the entire production is top-notch.
Julie Ann Marra, who plays Margaret, employs a thick accent and flings Margaret’s flares with abandon. Her Margaret is crispy crass, with a soft, chewy center.
Margaret weasels a half-hearted invitation to Mike’s house. In her attempt to dress up for the party, she wears her usual denim jacket over her “party clothes” and carries her typical sack of a purse. She even has a Band-Aid hanging from the heel of her shoe. Margaret is a fish out of water at Mike’s fancy Chestnut Hill house.
When Mike asks, “How’s the wine?” Margaret parries, “How the fuck should I know?” while sipping it.
Mike, played with appropriate unease by Bernard DiCasimirro, is not pleased when Margaret appears in his living room. She is a reminder of his old self, one he has tried to erase. The discomfort at having Margaret in the same room as his young wife is clear.
Mike’s wife, Kate, is played by Carla H. Ezell making her Langhorne Players debut. Kate, as a wealthy black woman raised in academia, has her own issues. After mistaking Margaret for the caterer, Kate jokes about being mistaken for the nanny when she takes her daughter to the park. Both women deal daily with either socio-economic or racial prejudice.
Yet is it clearly Kate who holds the cards. Margaret keeps her one ace firmly up her sleeve, refusing to play the game, because winning isn’t worth the cost — to others.
“She’s too nice,” says Margaret’s friend, Jean about her. Jean, slyly portrayed by Gabrielle Affleck (also new to the Langhorne Players stage), is fiercely loyal to her friend. Jean has Margaret’s back.
The cast includes Dottie, Margaret’s shifty landlord and unreliable babysitter. Loretta Zullo, makes her LP debut with Dottie, a woman who blames everyone but herself — Margaret’s foil. This line, about a former classmate of the three women who ends up a “bag lady” tells you all you need to know about Dottie: “It’s not right, her sleeping on the sidewalk. Makes the neighborhood look bad.”
An authentic good person turns out to be the one who opens the show by firing Margaret. Bobby Reiser plays Stevie, a dollar store manager with few choices. Life has been hard to Stevie. Stevie refuses to let it harden him. Young Reiser holds his own in the talented cast.
Because Good People playwright Lindsay-Abaire is so skillful, it is difficult to review his work without destroying what makes him so brilliant: his ability to reveal bits of history and truth in increments. Up until the last moments of the play, the audience is never quite sure of the real story, never quite certain of who is “good people” and who is less so.