“Good People” At Rep Offers Gripping Story With Just A Bit Too Much Melodrama

Andrea Gallo, Elizabeth Ann Townsend and Denise Cormier plan strategy at Bingo Night in the Rep's "Good People." Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Andrea Gallo, Elizabeth Ann Townsend and Denise Cormier plan strategy at Bingo Night as Aaron Orion Baker listens in during the Rep’s “Good People.” Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

We’re all a result of our environment- it’s just a matter of how we mold ourselves as a result of it. Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire has taken that concept and given us a look at two people from the same less than desirable neighborhood and the path each has taken as the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents his multiple-award winning 2011 play, “Good People.” Margie has struggled all her life and still relies on her job at the Dollar Store to live from day to day. Mikey has become a doctor and lives in an upscale suburb. Set in South Boston’s Lower End and that tony Chestnut Hill section, we see these two lives intersect again after 30 years and the volatile results that come of that meeting.

Denise Cormier is brilliant as the desperate Margie who has just been fired from her job for excessive tardiness. Her machinations that set the reunion with her one time fling, Mikey, are innocent enough at the start but her jealousy at how his life has turned out compared to hers turns her vindictive. It’s a bit tough getting your ear tuned to that Southie accent, but once you do, you can’t help but root for the optimism that Margie exudes even in the direst of circumstances. R. Ward Duffy is equally adept at showing his nervousness at his old life reappearing now that he has worked so hard to rise above it. His scenes in the second act when old flame and new wife come together is classic. You can almost see the sweat popping out on his brow as his old days are in danger of being exposed.

Zoey Martinson and Denise Cormier in "Good People" at the Rep. Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Zoey Martinson and Denise Cormier in “Good People” at the Rep. Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Andrea Gallo is delightful as Margie’s landlord and oversleeping baby sitter (which is why she’s always late for work). Her fascination with constructing styrofoam rabbits is a wonderful part of her character and becomes integral to the plot. Her best friend Jean is given a vivid and highly comic turn by Elizabeth Ann Townsend. Watching the three of them play bingo while they hatch plots to get Margie back to work is a great piece of writing.

Zoey Martinson is perfect as Mikey’s wife. Unaware initially of any contention between the two former lovers (at least for two weeks one summer), she quickly gets into the act as souls are bared during a confrontation in their upscale Boston home. Rounding out the cast is Aaron Orion Baker as Steve, the manager of the Dollar Store who feels bad about firing his old friend and tries desperately to make it up to Margie.

When the layers start to fall from these characters, it brings up many questions that perhaps demand varied answers. The “how’s” and “why’s” of the characters’ elevations or stagnations may depend on their treatment of each other. Did Margie really sacrifice herself for Mikey’s rise? Did he know about her plight- or even question it back in the old neighborhood? It’s an interesting look at class distinction and maybe it doesn’t come up with any real answers.

R. Ward Duffy tries to remain calm as his wife, Zoey Martinson discusses his youth in Southie with Denise Cormier in the Rep's "Good People." Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

R. Ward Duffy tries to remain calm as his wife, Zoey Martinson discusses his youth in Southie with Denise Cormier in the Rep’s “Good People.” Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The somewhat complicated series of set changes disrupt the flow of the play a bit, but the Kent Dorsey set is outstanding. Myrna Colley-Lee has beautifully enhanced the distinction between the “classes” with her great costumes and the Michael Lincoln lights fit the piece perfectly. Director Seth Gordon has done a masterful job in bringing the script to the stage. Although I found it a bit too “reality TV” in some spots and somewhat overly melodramatic at times in that visceral second act, it’s an interesting theme to explore and playwright David Lindsay-Abaire has brought it to beautiful life. As they say in the musical, “Seesaw,” it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish and this play shows quite clearly how these two lives took their respective paths. More importantly, it shows why these lives probably never should have crossed again.

See “Good People” through January 27th at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Mainstage. Call 314-968-4925 or contact the Rep at http://www.repstl.org for tickets or more information.

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