What makes someone ‘good’? Is how much you give back to your community—donating money and time, to those less fortunate—an indicator? Is it being ‘nice’ and going out of your way to not inconvenience others? Can people be good in some aspects of their lives, but devious in others? How much of our life’s path is determined by good luck? Or do people only attain success through hard work? What separates those who ‘make it’ and those who don’t?
While you’ve probably pondered those questions at some point in life, the Alliance Theatre’s production of ‘Good People,’ raises them in a compelling way. Immediately after the play, I could hear the conversations brewing all through the theatre and lobby. My friend and I had a terrific hour-long discussion afterwards.
At the center of the riveting story is Margie, a woman from Boston’s impoverished Southie neighborhood. Coping with a recent job loss and finding daycare for her special needs daughter, Margie tries to forge ahead with a good attitude, but grows weary from bleak prospects. Her frank-talking friend Jean encourages Margie to reach out to her high school boyfriend, Mike, who is now a doctor living in the affluent part of the city. Their exchange of pleasantries eventually leads to barbs as Margie “playfully” accuses Mike of forgetting where he came from. To show he doesn’t “think he’s better than her,” Mike invites Margie to a party at his house. When he calls later to say the party has been cancelled, Margie believes he’s lying and shows up anyway. There’s no party, but Mike’s wife invites Margie to visit a while. After a couple of glasses of wine, blunt truths and gibes begin spilling out, leading to emotional outbursts. These gripping scenes almost make you uncomfortable, as if witnessing a biting argument between your neighbors. You walk away not sure how you feel about the characters anymore, and also questioning what choices you would make in certain circumstances.
“Good People” is powerfully performed, the script delivers very realistic dialect and portrayals, and the Alliance does it justice with spot-on casting and acting. Kate Buddeke as Margie is especially phenomenal. While it touches on serious subjects and has really intense moments, the play is also filled with humor, especially the foul-mouthed exchanges between the ladies at bingo. The set is also superbly done—the transition between scenes and social classes, from the gritty Southie streets to the posh suburban home, is very well executed.
“Good People” runs through Feb. 10 at the Alliance Theatre. For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org.