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Theatre Review (LA): Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire

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Playwright David Lindsey-Abaire’s plays run the stylistic gamut. He has written several well-known ones, including the absurd Fuddy Meers, which features a bunch of wacko characters. He became known for these plays but was often criticized for their absurd premises, so he decided to write a naturalistic play based on what he feared most, losing a child. The result was Rabbit Hole, which went on to be nominated for several Tony Awards.

He also wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Shrek. He describes his plays as being about “outsiders seeking clarity.”

Most playwrights finally come home as it were and write about the people and places closest to home. The result in Lindsey-Abaire’s case is Good People. currently playing at the Geffen Playhouse. In his case home would be South Boston, whose people, called “Southies,” are definitely blue collar. Lindsey-Abaire has stated that he gets an idea for a play when two ideas collide. He himself has escaped his old hood and moved up in the world but he felt an obligation to write about the clash, witnessed firsthand in himself, between the native “Southie” who remained behind and the one who managed to move on. This is quite a pertinent subject given the political struggles today between the haves and have-nots.

The story revolves around Margie, a down and out woman who can’t seem to hold a job. She is saddled at home with a “special needs child” though she seems to accept the burden. She goes in search of a job with an old boyfriend who is now a successful doctor. Eventually she goes to his house hoping to meet someone who could give her a job – and to a party the good doctor had planned (but canceled). She thinks he was lying. At the house she meets his wife and some old hurts and secrets come out in very powerful scenes of confrontation.

Jane Kaczmarek plays Margie and it is the finest work I have ever seen her do. She is supported by a marvelous cast: Marylouise Burke and the hysterical Sara Botsford are treasures as her good chums. The doctor is well played by Jon Tenney and his wife is Cherise Boothe. Brad Fleischer does a great turn as her ex-boss. The cast is exceptionally good thanks in part to the direction by Matt Shakman who managed to find every punch and innuendo and the result is riveting. Great work all around.

Good People plays at the Geffen Playhouse until May 13.

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