‘Good People’ Examines the Importance of Luck vs. Hard Work

By Shari Barrett

A seemingly innocuous discussion over a cheese platter leads to a potentially life-changing revelation in David Lindsey-Abaire’s 'Good People' at Theatre 40. (From left: Charlotte Williams Roberts, Scott Facher, Alison Blanchard) Photo credit: Amir Kojoory

A seemingly innocuous discussion over a cheese platter leads to a potentially life-changing revelation in David Lindsey-Abaire’s ‘Good People’ at Theatre 40. (From left: Charlotte Williams Roberts, Scott Facher, Alison Blanchard)Photo credit: Amir Kojoory

With cutting humor and amazing realism, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsey-Abaire creates a loving portrait of his hometown and a relatable story of socioeconomic struggle, often due to circumstances seemingly out of our own control, in the world of ‘Good People’. Acts of sacrifice and gestures of kindness come at the most surprising moments and from the most unexpected sources, posing questions we often ask ourselves; how important is the element of luck vs. hard work in any of our lives, and what constitutes the fine line that blurs both ideologies?

‘Good People’ centers on life in South Boston, a working-class neighborhood on hard times, which is no joke for single mother Margaret “Margie” Walsh. Fired from her job and facing eviction, she and her grown, severely autisticdaughter represent a large portion of today’s society with seemingly nowhere to go when the “rug gets pulled out” from under them. Will Margie get a break from her young manager at the Dollar Store or the landlady with a craft business selling googly-eyed rabbits, or the man from her past, now a successful doctor, who left town at a crucial moment long ago?

But to what lengths will Margie go to get what she needs to survive when her buddies at the local church Bingo game suggest that she look up that old fling and ask him for a job? Mike, the former beau in question, has gotten out of South Boston, become an M.D., and moved to the tony suburb of Chestnut Hill with his younger, beautiful Black wife Kate and their daughter. When Margie arrives at his doorstep, will Mike be able to offer her a job and if not, what action will she take that threatens not only his professional career but also his marriage?  And by the play’s end, it’s left up to the audience to decide if Margie and Mike and the people in their orbits are reallygood peoplewith the best intentions or just trying to bring others down to make themselves feel better about the choices they have made and the lives they lead.

Directed by Theatre 40 veteran creative force Ann Hearn Tobolowsky, her cast features Alison Blanchard (Margie), Scott Facher (Dr. Mike), Michael Kerr (Stevie), Suzan Solomon (Jean), Mariko Van Kampen (Dottie) and Charlotte Williams Roberts (luminescent as the doctor’s wife Kate). Since the play is set in South Boston (“Southie”), each of actors portraying the locals (Margie, Stevie, Jean and Dottie) has worked diligently on the proper accent to lend credibility to their characters. Blanchard allows us to see the inner workings of Margie’s troubled soul, from her devotion to her daughter’s care to listening to her friends who do not really have her best interests at heart all the time. But their friendship is at the core of Margie’s world, no matter what, win or lose at Bingo! Their slice-of-life story is shared with no frills attached, making their hardships all the more relatable to audiences now on hard times themselves.

Unlike his usually detailed scenic designs, this time Jeff G. Rack has created a basically bare bones set so that the focus of the play is on the people with their physical environment secondary to what is really important: the words, the people, and what lessons the audience may take away from it. As always, Michèle Young’s costume design is picture perfect for the working-class main characters as well as the more refined doctor and his wife. Lighting design by Derrick McDaniel and sound design by Nick Foran enhance the overall artistic vision without pulling focus except when needed. Stage Manager Ernest McDaniel is to be commended for always being on the move changing set pieces as quickly as possible to maintain the emotional flow of the play.

‘Good People’is produced by David Hunt Stafford (also the Bingo caller voiceover) for Theatre 40 in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. The venue is on the campus of Beverly Hills High School. Free parking is available in the parking lot adjacent to the theatre. To access parking, enter through the driveway at the intersection of Durant and Moreno Drives and follow posted directions. Performances continue evenings January 5-8 at 8pm, with the closing show on Sunday, January 9 at 7pm. Tickets are $35, available by calling (310) 364-0535 or online at www.theatre40.org. Covid safety protocols are in effect with masks and vaccinations for audience members required. Please have a vax card or digital record and a photo ID available when you check in at the box office prior to the performance.