SUMMIT, NJ – The contrast between the "haves" and "have-nots" couldn’t be more striking in this smart, sensitive play by David Lindsay-Abaire.
We have the almost-homeless, struggling mother, Margaret, from South Boston pitted against her former classmate, Mike, now a successful doctor living on posh Beacon Hill.
“Good People” is directed by Frank Licato, who notes that “Americans rarely talk about class,” (even though we all know it exists, in our so-called democratic society.) It’s refreshing to see a play that tackles these issues in such an honest, realistic way.
Victoria Steele is Margaret, who has just been laid off from her job at a Dollar Store. Steele captures the gritty frustrations of someone who lives on the brink. Frank Blauer as Mike neatly treads the fine line between being polite to Margaret while wishing she’d just go away.
The plot centers on Maggie’s efforts to find another job. She learns from Jean that Mike has moved back into the area and visits him in his office. She somehow gets him to invite her to a party they’re giving over the weekend. When it’s cancelled, she thinks it’s a ploy on his part to keep her from coming. But she goes anyway. That’s when the secrets from the past are revealed and tensions mount.
In a stunning scene, she tries to tell Mike and his wife, Kate, about the downward spiral of poverty. She describes how her car is repossessed because she can’t make the payments, how dental expenses for her daughter and herself put her even further in debt (no dental insurance, of course) and other indignities that come with little or no income.
The cast lives up to the demands of this complex, disturbing, but often hilarious, play. Terri Sturtevant, as usual, gives a compelling performance as Dottie, the landlady who also watches Margaret’s daughter when she’s at work. Debbie Bernstein is Margaret’s friend, Jean, who urges her to stand up for herself more often. Daniel Hilt is Stevie, the employer who must let Margaret go because she’s usually late for work. (And her reasoning is that Dottie is often late arriving to care for Joyce.) Wendy A. Tiburcio is the wealthy wife of Mike. They’re having their own issues in raising a difficult daughter and sorting out the tensions in their marriage.
A clever set design by Ren Roberts manages to reveal a cluttered kitchen in Maggie’s apartment and then contrasts with the sleek living room of Mike and Kate.
There are a few slow moments in the play, but overall the dialogue and well developed characters keep the action moving.
“Good People” provides plenty of food for thought in this stark, telling tale of lives on the edge. The play continues through Nov. 23. For tickets, call (908) 273-2192 or visit summitplayhouse.org. The Summit Playhouse is located at 10 New England Ave., Summit.
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