Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire is on familiar territory with his play, Good People, as he grew up in South Boston, where the play is set. A satirical examination of how class differences emerge among people who used to be friends from the same neighborhood, Good People is laugh-out-loud funny in the right hands. And the right hands turn out to belong to Sandy Campbell, actress extraordinaire, who makes her directing debut with this production.
Margie (Susan Clausen) has just been fired for tardiness at a Dollar Store. Her manager, Stevie (Dennis Peters) is apologetic but says that he will lose his job if he continues only to warn her. Nevertheless, Stevie continues to play Bingo in the neighborhood with Margie and her friends, Dottie (Heidi Bridges) and Jean (Sherri Allen).
Over Bingo cards, Margie frets that she is almost out of money and that she worries about caring for her adult child, Joyce. Her friends advise her to contact her high school boyfriend, Mike (Ted Leib), who is a physician in Boston’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood. Mike tells her that he doesn’t have a job for her, but Margie doesn’t want to give up. She decides to crash his birthday party, hoping that someone there will give her job leads.
Turns out that the birthday party has been canceled, but Mike’s wife, Kate (Amira Temple) invites Margie in. Over conversation about the past, some uncomfortable truths are told.
Mr. Lindsay-Abaire’s people are “good” in that they are trying their best to be part of their communities. That doesn’t stop Margie from resenting that Mike has gotten all the breaks, but surprises are in store when her resentment comes out.
As a director, Ms. Campbell brings a veteran actor’s sensibility to coaching character and relationships. There are points where, for example, the tension rises, and everyone stops and takes a sip of their drink at once, a small gesture that serves to heighten the humor of the scene. Most of the time, I chuckle in response to a play’s jokes – in Ms. Campbell’s production of Good People, I found myself laughing out loud a lot.
The Brooks Theater has been used for many purposes, but the creative team (scenic designer Morgan Zwonitzer, lighting designer Mashun Tucker, and costume designer Marcene Drysdale) find ways to keep the space intimate and inviting. In particular, Mr. Leib creates a marvel sound design where cues land just at the right time.
As Margie, Ms. Clausen lives on the edge of desperation, and the audience sees it in her eyes and in the way she carries herself. Mr. Leib exudes confidence, as does Ms. Temple. Mr. Peters shows us the weariness that is undoubtedly part of a Dollar Store manager’s job. Ms. Allen and Ms. Bridges kibbutz effectively as the Bingo players.
Performances (Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM & 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM) run through May 28 and word of mouth should bring out eager audiences.
The Brooks Theater is located at 217 N. Coast Highway in Oceanside. Street parking is available, and there is a large free parking structure at the Civic Center, a few blocks away.