Some Good People in the 'burgh

Currently going on until December 9th at the Pittsburgh Public Theater is the fresh, 2011 Tony-nominated play, Good People, by David Lindsay-Abaire. Good People is about Margie, a resident of Southie, a Boston-area neighborhood. The play begins as Margie's career as a cashier ends, leaving her and her handicapped, adult daughter, Joyce, in a huge financial struggle.

Good People runs from November 8th to December 9th at the Public Theater. Photo Credit.
Struggle, that many Americans today can relate to. The idea that these characters are in a position so familiar to the average American today is what makes this play so real, but the way it is being performed is what makes seeing it at the Public so rare. I feel like theater's intention is to bring people together and make them see something in a new light or to create interesting conversations. However, because of our selfish human nature, we seem to have changed that intent to go to theater to solely be entertained instead. Good People, though highly entertaining with it's sarcastic humor and adult language, is also raw and seriously makes you think. Or at least it did for me.

At the Public, you are always guaranteed a fabulous set and lighting design, so I shouldn't even have to go into detail about how perfect the minimalistic, color-blocked stage looked. Or how interesting and artistic the main set wall worked with the lighting and how cool the moving stage worked to easily move set pieces around and give depth to the theater's space. I also shouldn't have to tell you how perfect the music of the play was and how each selected piece was like a mini-soundtrack to my high school days, which, with the vibe of this show, is a masterpiece.Oh, I also shouldn't have to tell you that answering your phone during the middle of a show is highly inappropriate and should never, ever be done. But since some girl did that during the performance I saw, I guess that some people still need to be told. So, do not be that girl.

Dotti, Jean, Margie and Margie's former boss, Stevie (Paul Terzenbach) at bingo. Credit.
Moving on, Good People at the Public was perfectly cast. David Whalen, a Public Theater regular, is yet again fantastic. He portrays Mike, who was once a "Southie kid" and former boyfriend of Margie, and is now a well respected fertility doctor, living in the luxurious Chestnut Hill, and married to a much younger (and darker) woman named Kate (January LaVoy). There are only a few biracial couple jokes in this show but I found them all to be hysterical because you know, I'm in one of those and nothing is better than laughing at yourself. Margie, who is flawlessly portrayed by Kelly McAndrew, being in a financial struggle is talked into meeting with Mike after 30 years apart, by her landlord, Dotti (Glynis Bell) and her friend Jean (Helen Coxe), in hopes that he will be able to help her find a job. (The dynamic between Glynis and Helen just about steals the show every time they're together.) Margie finds herself at Mike's office and eventually in a verbal "fight" that ends with her inviting herself to the birthday party Kate is planning for him which is being held in their home, which Margie is obviously dying to see. This scene is like one of those fabulously awkward run-ins with an ex or estranged friend...only fun to watch, not to actually be in.

In Act II, Margie, who has already been told that the party was canceled is again talked into going anyway because she, Dotti and Jean think she was just uninvited because Mike is probably just too embarrassed to have her at his home, rubbing elbows with his swanky doctor friends and their wives. When she arrives, she finds out that the party actually was canceled which starts to infuriate Mike, but gives Kate the perfect reason to invite her in for wine in hopes of hearing some endearing childhood stories of Mike. Instead, the conversation becomes the raw theater I was talking about. The topic of Margie's inability to find a job and not struggle with money, come to the forefront. This made for a hard scene to watch, but probably harder to perform. These three actors shined in this rough dialog about love, money, luck, parenting, grace and giving unselfishly. They fight, they yell, they almost get violent and Mike breaks the present Margie brings him. Although all three of the actors in this scene are so real and awesome, Kelly McAndrew brings it hard. Get it girl. 

This is the scene that brings up the conversation pieces. Margie tries to explain to Mike how she thinks he got lucky and was just fortunate to have parents who cared and a scholarship to get him through school, while she had to drop out of high school to have her baby and raise her without help. Mike chalks his success up to hard work, and blames Margie's fate on her poor choices. While Margie accepts that she's made some bad choices, she never lets up on Mike for not giving credit for his successes to anyone else, including his father...and her. But of course Mike, doesn't see it her way and Kate is shocked by the little truths that slip out about her husband's past. This is where the idea of being able to "get out" of Southie comes into play. Where the idea of being able to "get out" of any small town that holds people back comes to mind.

As someone in the state between the "stuck" and the "out" - this play is a must see. And if I know you, dear reader, you should see it regardless of which state you're in, because not only are the actors spot on throughout, not only is the set, lighting and music beautiful but this story is real. If you aren't in a situation similar to what plays out on stage, you know someone who is or who was. And let's be real, as selfish humans, if the play isn't just going to be the most entertaining thing we've ever seen, it damn well better relate to us. Good People does both. So you should see it.

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