Sometimes bad things happen to good people. It's just the way life is. Things aren't always "fair" or even equitable, but that's just something we all have to understand and accept. In these tough economic times that we live in, it's a hard fact that everyone needs to be made aware of, and playwright David Lindsay-Abaire examines this issue in his brilliant play Good People. I think it's a tremendously engaging work that absolutely demands to be seen. Thankfully, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has staged a must-see production of this play at a time when it's especially relevant, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The casting and direction are spot on, and the message, told with humor and drama in a remarkably even balance, is one that is very important to all of us.
When Margaret loses her job at the dollar store because she's habitually late, it sends her life into turmoil. Without the benefit of a college degree, she faces a difficult road in trying to get work she can handle that will actually pay all the bills. It doesn't help that she's raising her mentally challenged daughter by herself, and relying on the kindness of her landlord, Dottie, to keep watch over her while she tries to find work. Meanwhile, her friend Jean informs her that she happened to run into her old high school flame, Mike, who's now a successful Doctor, at a catering job. This prompts Margaret to look him up to see if he has a job available, or if he can, at least, refer her to one of his colleagues who might. But, Mike is hesitant to get involved. He's left his past behind, and seems none to keen on revisiting it. Somehow he winds up inviting her to his birthday party, even though it's obvious that's he feels it's against his better judgment to do so. When he calls to cancel the invitation due to his child's illness, Margaret suspects it's just a ruse to keep her from coming, and she decides to show up anyway. Things take an eventful turn from this point forward that may have you wondering what the definition of a "good person" really is.
Denise Cormier is excellent as Margaret. We can really empathize with her situation, and feel her pain as she awkwardly tries to deal with Mike and his wife Kate after showing up at his house uninvited. R. Ward Duffy walks a fine line as Mike, trying hard to understand and appreciate Margaret's situation while dealing with problems in own far from perfect life. The twists and turns that occur as they confront one another are sometimes painful to watch, and we're never quite sure if what we're being told is the truth or not, but it's a fascinating exchange that finds both actors at their best.
Zoey Martinson is very good as Mike's wife Kate. She and Mike are having marital difficulties, and at first, she tries hard to be sympathetic with Margaret's predicament. But, revelations occur that put a damper on her enthusiasm. Elizabeth Ann Townsend is hilarious as Margaret's foul-mouthed friend Jean, and Andrea Gallo amuses as her aptly named landlord, Dottie. Aaron Orion Baker does fine work as Stevie, who as Margaret's boss, has the unenviable task of firing her to protect his own position.
Seth Gordon's direction is exceptional. The performances he garners from his terrific cast are also worth mentioning. Gordon also keeps the show moving along at a good clip, with nary a lull to be found. He's aided in his efforts by Kent Dorsey's expertly conceived scenic design, Myrna Colley-Lee's character-fitting costumes, Michael Lincoln's focused lighting scheme, and Rusty Wandall's great sound design. This is a top notch effort by all involved parties.
I implore you to go see Good People, and to laugh and be moved by the characters and situations it presents. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis never disappoints, and this production is just another example of their exemplary work.
Good People continues through January 27, 2013 on the main stage of the Loretto-Hilton.