Good people don’t always get good breaks. And good people sometimes do bad things. And sometimes people who seem to be good turn out not to be. These are some of the themes explored in David Lindsay-Abaire’s winning play Good People, which opened Friday in a spectacular production at CVRep.
Margie is a down-on-her-luck single mother living in South Boston’s lower end. Her adult daughter’s needs are so special that she requires constant care, which Margie cannot afford. The help she does get from friends and neighbors is not always reliable, which results in Margie being difficult to employ. The opening scene, in fact, sees her getting fired from her job as a cashier at the dollar store for excessive tardiness — which she feels is justifiable given the difficulty of her situation. Back home, as Margie wonders how she’s going to pay her rent, her sassy friend, Jean, tells her that an old school chum has returned to the city — the fancy part of the city, that is — and is now a successful doctor. Maybe he could help her find work.
Enter Mike, who it turns out briefly dated Margie in high school. While the two grew up in the same neighborhood, his situation is now the antithesis of hers. He’s in a seemingly perfect marriage to a beautiful younger woman, and they have a gorgeous house in which they’re raising their perfect young daughter. What follows is a socio-economic clash in which two people whose lives began similarly explore the options they had, the choices they made, and where all of it has led them.
Candi Milo as Jean, Reamy Hall as Margie, Erik Odom as Stevie, and Barbara Gruen as Dottie tap into many relatable themes for the audience.
This is a very relatable, highly thought-provoking play that stays with you. At one point, Mike’s wife, Kate, lectures Margie on her parenting, and at the time I thought she was completely out of line. But the more I thought about the message she was conveying, I had a change of heart. Such is the case with much of this story. Rather than providing definitive answers, it asks you to examine these richly drawn characters, who are not as easily digestible as they initially appear, and try to figure out which of them are “good” and which of them are not. And the results will surprise you.
The cast is superb. As Margie, Reamy Hall hits it out of the park with a powerful performance. This is a complex character with a wide range of emotions, and Hall navigates them with ease. When her feelings are hurt, you feel it. When she embarrasses herself, you’re embarrassed for her.
Michael Matthys plays Mike, the local kid who made good — or so you think. Mattys perfectly embodies this somewhat smug, somewhat insulting cockalorum whose life might not be as fulfilling as it seems. As his wife Kate, Nadège August is terrific. She genuinely wants to help Margie but is very effective at setting boundaries — especially when it comes to standing up for what she believes. At the end of the day, it seems, no one is completely good or completely bad, as this supremely talented troika proves by taking us on various emotional — and humorous — journeys. Whose side are you on? Don’t make up your mind too quickly.
In smaller roles, Candi Milo (as Jean), Barbara Gruen (as Dottie), and Erik Odom (as Stevie) provide plenty of laughs and great moments.
The action is masterfully directed by Michael Matthews, while Jimmy Cuomo’s set is shrewdly designed and thoughtfully executed. A big shout out goes to Chandler Smith for her costumes. The show’s themes of class, status, and success/failure are expertly conveyed with her wardrobe designs, which manage to be both subtle and powerful. Everything comes together to create an outstanding production of a polarizing play. Highly recommended.
Good People runs through May 19 at Coachella Valley Repertory in Cathedral City. For tickets, visit cvrep.org or call the box office at 760-296-2966.
Reamy Hall as Margie with Michael Matthys as Mike.