MTC’s follow up to Kim’s Convenience is another light-hearted slice of working-class comedy. David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People tells the story of Margaret (Martha Burns), a down-and-out Bostonian who loses her menial job at the dollar store and spends the rest of the play worrying about where she’s going to get the money for next month’s rent. The scenario is familiar and it opens up a timely dialogue about the economic disparity that is reaching an all-time high in the U.S. and elsewhere. I say dialogue because the play isn’t one sided in featuring Margaret’s plight as a poor “Southie” girl who just can’t catch a break. On the other side of the proverbial tracks we have Mike (Ari Cohen), Margaret’s former high school sweetheart who has managed to get out of south Boston and make something of himself.
Margaret, in her desperation, looks Mike up hoping that he might have work for her. Though he’s upfront that he has nothing to offer her, she sticks around long enough to land a couple on his chin. On the surface, she’s looking to see if deep down he’s still a Southie at heart. She ruffles his feathers and tells him he’s gone soft, but underneath all the verbal sparring there is something revealing: it’s hard for her to see that Mike is successful.
The second act of the play delves deeper into the nature of success and fairness. In Margaret’s world, she sees the outcome of success as a role of the dice. In her view, she’s worked just as hard as Mike, some might say harder, but all that hard work builds to nothing more than a barely above minimum wage job. Whereas, Mike was born with some natural abilities and had a father who pushed him in school, so while Margaret dropped out of school to raise her daughter, Mike carried on with his studies and became a doctor.
Success means different things to different people. For Margaret, Mike is a success because he got out. Though she spends a great deal of the play making fun of him for it, deep down there is a nagging part of her that wonders what could have happened if they’d never split in high school. Good People offers a lot of those “what if” questions. It confronts our notions of fairness and success, but it never preaches to us. It doesn’t offer easy answers because it knows there is no single satisfactory answer. Margaret sees Mike’s big house, fancy office and imported cheese spread and thinks that is success, but she misses the hostility between Mike and his wife (Audrey Dwyer) who clearly are in need of the counseling Mike wishes he could stop attending. Success depends so much on who is measuring it.
For a play that touches on some heavy subject matter, Good People is surprisingly light thanks to the sharp dialogue and fantastic chemistry between the leads and the supporting cast, all sporting convincing Boston accents and volleying around some colourful phrases. Good People runs from April 17 – May 10/2014.
Post by Josh Benoit – Photos by RMTC’s Bruce Monk
Joshua Benoit is a freelance writer, musician with the local band, Pumas and videographer living in Winnipeg. He is passionate about food, philosophy, travel and Kurt Vonnegut. At one time he thought he wanted to be an optometrist but ultimately found more joy in words than in formulas, just as he derives more pleasure from whiskey than from soda.
His life goals are modest and include owning a dog with an aloof demeanor and a needy cat, publishing no less than eleven novels (some of them trash), and possibly raising children, though he’d settle for a weekly afterschool special in which he could impart his street-wise verbiage to the children of the world.
Joshua studied English and Film at the University of Manitoba and took his sweet time about getting his B.A. He now works for the Department of Education and is continuing his creative writing studies through the University of Toronto. To get in touch with Joshua, write to him at email@example.com