Who: Geva Theatre
When: Through Nov. 16
Where: 75 Woodbury Boulevard, Rochester, NY 14607
Review by: Lateshia D. Beachum
Central New York should find itself blessed to have a play like Good People in the area. The play, by David Lindsay-Abaire, not only serves its audience good theatre, but it also serves an unabashed discussion about class, race, and advancement out of neighborhoods and those who get left behind.
The production follows Margie Walsh, a South Boston native who finds herself out of her job at the Dollar Store because of her tardiness, something she attributes to her daughter being born prematurely. Desperate to make ends meet, she decides to contact a former flame who has made a name for himself since leaving the working-class, downtrodden neighborhood known as Southy. Walsh and her past boyfriend soon find themselves facing past demons and the people they have become as a result of their different life paths.
Good People delivers its complex messages through sitcom-like humor that’s reminiscent of Archie Bunker and Roseanne, if they were based in South Boston. The gruff humor acts as a proxy between the seemingly simple relationships between Margie and other characters.
The intimate Geva Theatre allows its audience to feel immersed in Margie’s desperation-filled quest and the truth that it reveals. The monologues that Margie (played by Constance Macy) delivers grab ahold of the audience by the shirt collar and pull them along the wave of her simple, accent-riddled speech.
Macy’s performance is believable and truthful. Her Bostonian accent is unrivaled by tertiary actors and her range is to be applauded. Yet, her supporting actors, specifically Peggy Cosgrave (Jean) and Dee Pelletier (Dottie), have a tendency to steal scenes from her with their impressive comedic timing and organic fusion between the people on stage and those in the audience. Macy’s comfort develops throughout the play, and it does nothing but enhance her performance.
The blocking left a lot to be desired. Too many times, the actors completely faced each other, leaving the audience with nothing but profile or back views, depending on where one was seated in the theater. But, the lack of physical openness didn’t detract from the interactions and level of acting of the cast.
What’s beautiful about Good People is the symbiosis that lies within the high caliber of acting and the quality of stage production. The periactoids used made it easy for the audience to leave the scene of a Boston back alley where Margie was fired to her small kitchen in her apartment where she stresses about how she will take care of herself and daughter, Joyce. But, the applause doesn’t stop at the speed. Each scene, much like the development of the characters, has been meticulously thought out and well-staged. Small, ordinary occurrences like the yellowish wallpaper in Margie’s apartment to the office chairs in her ex-boyfriend’s practice only complement the level of escapism reached in the show.
However, the score for Good People doesn’t quite blend with the tone of the play. The music has a happy, folk-like quality that doesn’t pair well with the emotionally intensive scenes and their supporting dark humor. Moreover, the colors used in the animated playbill are a bit misleading once the first scene is over. While the illustration between the haves and have-nots is quite apparent, the color that fills between their lines is not, evoking a feeling that isn’t much resolved at the play’s end.
Good People has minor flaws that are easy to overlook at the final black out. Good People is good theatre.