'Good People'

By: 
Ben Mile
Bridgette Campbell, Amanda Zarr and Karen Webster in the OC Premiere of Good People.

In 2011, David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, “Good People,” premiered on Broadway and was nominated for two Tony Awards — one for Best Play, one for Best  Leading Actress; it took the trophy in the latter category, earning Frances McDormand her first and, so far, only Tony (though she’s received two Oscars for her work in movies).

Now, after several national and international productions “Good People” is making its OC debut in a homegrown staging at Anaheim’s acclaimed Chance Theater, through May 20. (The Chance is the city of Anaheim’s official resident theater company and officially known as Chance Theater @ Bette Aitken theater arts center.)

With stellar direction by Jocelyn A. Brown and a convincing cast of performers, Lindsay-Abaire’s drama is brought to life on the Chance Theater’s Cripe Stage and remains as relevant in the Trump-era of 2018 as it was when it was when it was written nearly a decade ago, if not more so.

The plot focuses on Margie Walsh (Amanda Zarr in a credible and unadorned characterization) a native of  South Boston, a working-class berg of the city, where wages are low, poverty is high and for many so-called Southies life is a hand-to-mouth, day-by-day  struggle. Due to her hard-pressed life circumstances Margie is habitually tardy to her job at a dollar store.

When we initially meet Margie she’s having an intense encounter with the store’s manager, Stevie (a sympathetic Alec Kenney), who’s been directed by his boss to fire Margie.

Margie is a single parent with a daughter who has special needs, rent is coming due and Margie is facing and has faced an array of incidental expenses (such as a costly and unexpected dental crisis).  Margie has few options, so her friends Dottie (a kindly,  outlandish portrayal by Karen Webster) and Jean (well-played by Bridgette Campbell) urge her to reconnect with her ex-boyfriend from high school Mike, who’s now a well-heeled physician (Robert Foran in a superbly naturalistic performance).  Margie is encouraged by Dottie and Jean to suggest to Mike that he is the father of her daughter in an effort to receive monetary support.  

In the sincere hope of maybe finding a job in Mike’s office, Margie does visit Mike’s plush place of practice. After much verbal crossfire and word-wresting,  Margie — after Mike suggests some of his fellow physicians might have a job opening for her — finagles an invitation to an upcoming party that Mike and his wife Katie (a quietly expressive Taj Johnson) are having on an upcoming Saturday night. When Mike makes a call to Margie to inform her that the party has been canceled, she assumes that he is simply embarrassed to have her mix among his “lace curtain” friends. She, therefore, shows up at Mike and Katie’s home on the night of the supposedly aborted party.

“Good People” is a modern day morality play; it explores questions of luck, opportunity and choice, using drama to dig deeply into the fundamental and existential questions  that are current and timeless. Lindsay-Abaire’s script employs specific characters and situations to address universal dilemmas.

The Chance offers top-notch stagecraft (Christopher Scott Murillo, scenic design; Jeff Brewer, lighting design; Darryl B. Hovis, sound design; Bruce Goodrich, costume design; and Glenda Morgan Brown providing the dialect coaching to the cast to achieve that distinctive South Boston accent) and a winning ensemble of performers to convey Lindsay-Abaire’s drama meaningfully and entertainingly. 

“Good People” continues through May 20.

Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 3 p.m.

For reservations call (888)455-4212. For online ticketing visit www.ChanceTheater.com The Chance is located at 5522 East La Palma Blvd., Anaheim.

ben@beachcomber.news

 

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