Sunday, October 07, 2012

I've Seen (All) 'Good People' ... So Satisfied? Yes, Particularly at a Great Value -- Chicago Theater Review

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow
Theater Review

Good People
by David Lindsay-Abaire
Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago
Thru November 11, 2012

Even though Good People is the first play by David Lindsay-Abaire that I've seen, I was already fairly well convinced that he is an excellent playwright.

For the film Rabbit Hole, which Lindsay-Abaire adapted from his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of the same name, was one of my favorite films of 2010 (even though I didn't see it until January of the following year).

Good People, which likewise enjoyed a Tony-nominated Broadway run, further reiterates my regard for Lindsay-Abaire, even I didn't find its current Steppenwolf production quite as riveting, or as good, as Rabbit Hole (at least per the film version).

Based in hardscrabble South Boston--where Lindsay-Abaire grew up--with forays into the leafy Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill, Good People centers around a middle-aged woman named Margaret, richly embodied by Marian Mayberry.

As the play opens, Margaret is fired from her $9.20/hr. clerk job at a Dollar Store by--as the photo at top depicts--her much younger supervisor, Stevie, in the back alley. Though I think that most viewers would concur that the termination is merited and that Stevie is blameless, we nonetheless feel considerable empathy for 'Margey,' especially upon learning that she is a single mother caring for a severely retarded adult daughter (who we never see).

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow
Margaret is comforted by her wonderfully sassy best friend, Jean (a delightful Lusia Strus), who convinces her to seek out an old flame named Mike (Keith Kupferer), a fellow 'Southie' who is now a successful doctor living comfortably in Chestnut Hill with his wife, Kate (Alana Arenas).

Though I won't go into any more storyline details, there are enough plot points to keep the play engaging throughout, though it doesn't really kick into high gear until midway through Act 2.

Lindsay-Abaire gives us much to think about, as evidenced by a lively post-show discussion following Saturday's matinee, including issues concerning class, community, friendship, wealth, race, the choices & sacrifices we make and an abiding desire to be seen as "good people" that can simultaneously drive our actions while being at odds with them.

I was largely prompted to check out Good People by Chris Jones' 4-star (out of 4) review in the Tribune. I'm glad I did, particularly in taking advantage of Steppenwolf's generous Twenty at $20 same-day ticket discount program.

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow
I wasn't quite as wowed as Jones seemingly was, but still found Good People to be worthwhile entertainment and a bit beyond. In my eyes, it's not quite a "must-see" at this jam-packed time of the theatrical year, but a comedy-infused drama that most who attend should find insightful and enjoyable.

All the more reason opting for readily-available discount tickets--through Steppenwolf, HotTix or Goldstar--could make a play about the things in life we value one that's especially good, people.

In case you're curious about my title for this post, "I've Seen All Good People" is a song by the British band Yes that has absolutely nothing to do with the play, but whose lyrics I couldn't help but reference.

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