GOOD PEOPLE by David Lindsay-Abaire
Produced and Directed by Carolyn Wilson
DURHAM SHOESTRING PERFORMERS
I don’t think I’d want to mess with any of these ‘Southies’ in David Lindsay-Abaire’s GOOD PEOPLE. The title is most certainly an appropriate one for this engaging 2011 script of character development now in performance by The Durham Shoestring Performers at Oshawa’s Arts Resource Centre. Two music versions of “Good People” by Paul Lamb & Sean McCann with performance by Great Big Sea AND by Jack Johnson weave nicely in between each of the scene changes to keep us aware of ‘where do all the good people go’.
Carolyn Wilson’s set design functions well in this intimate performance space. Hanging boxes, which look as if they are suspended without wires, are turned by the Stage Managers to indicate the various locales. Rather than having the set pieces dragged out from back stage, most of the furniture is stored neatly and practically at stage left with positioning in place when necessary. Phil Ireland’s lighting design effectively highlights and delineates the various locales from a back alley behind a dollar store, an apartment kitchen, a church bingo hall, a doctor’s office and an upscale living room. A nice bit of fun and acknowledgement to the stagehands who help set the various scenes.
In her Director Notes, Ms. Wilson states that Mr. Lindsay-Abaire wanted to write lovingly about his south Boston roots, and he (along with Wilson’s skillful direction) has created memorable ones. Ms. Wilson has finely molded her solid cast to become very real working class south Bostonians with acid tongues. All six actors create distinct personalities who are funny, opinionated, fiery and, sometimes, vulgar and who don’t or won’t put up with anyone’s crap to be perfectly honest.
Margie Walsh (a gutsy and courageous performance by Gillian Woodhouse) is fired from her job at the seedy dollar store. Beneath her tough exterior lies a good yet scared woman who wonders what the future holds for her and her developmentally delayed adult daughter, Joyce, as they live pay cheque to pay cheque. Ms. Woodhouse convinces us immediately she IS Margie. We constantly root for her as she stands up for herself, empathize and want to hug her when life throws her a curve, and are horrified especially in the second act when she tries to blame an old boyfriend, doctor Mike Dillon, for something that might have happened years ago.
There are strong performances from the other five cast members of this true ensemble effort. Newcomers to the DSP stage Gordon Bennett and Laka Ford-Williams play Doctor Mike Dillon and his wife, Kate with credibility. Mr. Bennett has clearly worked diligently during rehearsals to sustain a continued nervous apprehension in his conversations with Margie since he is trying to blot out this sordid part of his life. Margie’s unexpected arrival at Mike’s office in the first act and at his home in the second act provides a bona fide power struggle of verbal jousting on many levels for Bennett, Ford-Williams and Woodhouse that becomes highly engaging for the audience to watch. Our emotions run the gamut for Ms. Ford-Williams as we feel for Kate since she is unaware of the truth of the situation between Mike and Margie. When the truth is finally revealed to Kate, Ms. Ford-Williams’ performance becomes strong in her silence of how she handles her husband and Margie.
Rounding out this cast are Margie’s rather obnoxious, catty and profane girlfriends, Jean and Dottie (passionately and gleefully played by Patti Wilson and Laurie Scattergood). At times, these bitchy women are so mean to Stevie (Kyle Robertson), Margie’s supervisor, who fires her from the dollar store. Robertson’s performance is genuinely heartfelt that we feel badly why Stevie chooses to endure all of this abuse especially during the Bingo game. By the end of the play, we learn that Stevie is one of the ‘good people’, and we know where he goes.
Accents of any kind always require work from all professional and non-professional actors. Kudos to the DSP performers as they have done their homework in trying to sustain the lilt of the New England and Boston area; however, there were moments where it was difficult to hear the projected dialogue while maintaining the cadence and rhythm of the accent. I’m certain attention will be paid to the New England accent for this week’s performances.
Ben Brantley wrote in his review of the original New York production “the characters [in GOOD PEOPLE] often accuse one another of being too mean or too nice, too hard or too soft. And they’re right on all accounts…as there’s nothing pure about the goodness or badness of the folks who inhabit this play. This makes them among the most fully human residents.” The DSP cast has created fully human residents of Southie who, by the end of the play, may or may not be good people. Pay a visit to see them for a most entertaining evening and to chat with them after the performance.
GOOD PEOPLE continues at Oshawa’s Arts Resource Centre, 45 Queen Street (behind Oshawa City Hall) January 25, 26, 27 and 28 at 8:00 pm. Tickets may be purchased at the door before the curtain.