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Good People

In Curious Theatre Company's regional premiere of Good People, playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Rabbit Hole) explores the effects of socio-economic conditions on the lives of a small group of friends who grew up in South Boston, an urban war zone—much like South Bronx, South Central LA, most of Detroit, and major swaths of a multitude of American cities—captured beautifully in Caitlin Ayer's gritty streetscape collage of corrugated aluminum, plywood, chain link fence, bricks, planks, shuttered windows, and aging louvres.

(Left to right) Leslie O'Carrell as Jean and Dee Covington as Margie
(L to R) Leslie O'Carroll as Jean
and Dee Covington as Margie
Photo: Michael Ensminger
In the midst of this rubble, Margie (Dee Covington), a middle-aged single mother of a disabled adult child, struggles to make ends meet, working at the dollar store and paying her self-centered friend Dottie (Kathryn Gray) to babysit. After losing her job for persistent lateness—mostly due to Dottie's refusal to show up to babysit on time—Margie, Dottie, and Jean (Leslie O'Carroll) meet at the bingo parlor and brainstorm about Margie finding new work. Jean mentions that she recently ran into Mike (Michael McNeill), an ex-classmate who made it out of the projects and became a medical doctor.

(Left to right) Betty Hart as Kate and Dee Covington as Margie
(L to R) Betty Hart as Kate
and Dee Covington as Margie
Photo: Michael Ensminger
If this were simply a conceit for Lindsay-Abaire to show the pretentions of those who escape their past and achieve social mobility, it would not have been nearly as effective as what the playwright achieved by inventing Mike's wife, Kate (Betty Hart), as an upper middle class African American from the Georgetown neighborhood in Washington, DC. In doing so, Lindsay-Abaire shows us that it is class, not race, that is the defining characteristic that divides people in the U.S. and, for that matter, the rest of the world.

In the U.S., the word "class" has come to be associated with upscale behavior or design elements, but elsewhere it retains its principle denotative meaning as social strata. The reason for this, of course, is that other than a couple of brief episodes—e.g., during 2011 when Obama proposed a tax on the wealthy and the Republicans quickly termed it "class warfare" (thereby inverting its meaning)—the notion of class struggle was obliterated from U.S. educational and media environments following WWII, to further obfuscate the root cause of global dysfunction: private control over money creation and credit regulation. In no other industrialized nation is the separation between classes growing faster than in the U.S. Why? Because global capital has no loyalty to location; in fact, it disdains sovereignty; and in this context, we have become just another vassal, third-world, public sector organization in the constellation of private bank holding company acquisitions.

Dee Covington as Margie and Michael McNeill as Mike
Dee Covington as Margie
and Michael McNeill as Mike
Photo: Michael Ensminger
As the story unfolds, we learn that Mike and Margie dated for a couple of months during their senior year in high school. What happened during that short spell and how it serves as a catlyst for Lindsay-Abaire's razor-sharp commentary on "good people" and class, leaves open many questions, including the value of upward mobility if it is not accompanied by a commensurate measure of consciousness and compassion.

(Left to right) Leslie O'Carroll as Jean and Kathryn Gray as Dottie
(L to R) Leslie O'Carroll as Jean
and Kathryn Gray as Dottie
Photo: Michael Ensminger
As the three women discuss their situation, Lindsay-Abaire paints a vivid picture of how economic privation has limited their options, or has it? In the second act, when Margie visits Michael at his home in the affluent Chestnut Hill section of Boston, Michael counters Margie's talk of limitations with his prescription for hard work. In an astounding monologue by Covington, Margie reminds Michael that his dad encouraged and helped him, and that if not for him, he'd probably be in prison.

Dee Covington as Margie and John Jurcheck as Stevie
Dee Covington as Margie
and John Jurcheck as Stevie
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Covington's Margie is an unpredictable and riveting mix of self deprecation, street smarts, and compassion; Gray is hilarious as Dottie, deadpanning her way through one zinger after another; O'Carroll's Jean is the consummate realist and hard ass, calling out everyone on their delusions; John Jurcheck's low-key Stevie turns out to be a heart-warming element of surprise; McNeill's Michael is a smooth-talking professional whose fascade cracks as he is forced to consider what he would rather forget; and Betty Hart's Kate is the gold standard of upper-middle class perspective and entitlement. Director Christy Montour-Larson's efficient staging keeps the focus on the characters, who produce a number of telling moments, both comedic and dramatic. This is Montour-Larson's third helming of a Lindsay-Abaire play (Fuddy Mears, 2002, and Rabbit Hole, 2009, all at Curious Theatre); her ease with the playwright's swift changes of context comes through in this confident and powerful production.

Curious Theatre Company's presentation of the regional premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People runs through April 19th. For more information: 303-623-0524 or www.curioustheatre.org.

Bob Bows

 

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