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Friday, April 22, 2011

Good People on Broadway

Good People, a play with a limited run on Broadway ending May 29th, has not gotten the hype of some of the other shows that recently opened, yet I found it to be the strongest of the plays I have seen recently.

Frances McDormand brilliantly plays Margie, a single mother with a developmentally disabled adult daughter to care for. She works minimum wage jobs in South Boston, and lives in a crummy apartment. For entertainment, she plays bingo with her friend and her landlady.

With no one to care for her daughter, she is frequently late for work, and when her understanding boss (Patrick Carroll)  is forced to fire her, she doesn't know what to do. Her high school friend, played by Becky Ann Baker, suggests that she contact her high school boyfriend who is now a successful doctor. She even suggest that maybe Margie claim that he is the father of her daughter, which Margie rejects.

Margie goes to see Dr. Mike, (Tate Donovan in a fantastic performance) after he does not return her phone calls. She shows up at his office and asks him if he has a job for her. Mike senses her desperation, but he says he has nothing available. He is  uncomfortable at being reminded of where he came from, but
he bristles when Margie suggest the same.

Margie finds out about a party Mike's wife is throwing for him and their home, and she dares Mike to invite her. He reluctantly does so.

Renee Elise Goldsberry plays Mike's younger, African-American wife Kate. It's not easy to shine when you are playing opposite the tremendous McDormand, but Goldsberry is terrific. When Margie shows up at the party after it was cancelled, Kate invites her to stay. That is when the play gets really interesting. The interaction among these three strong actors is fascinating; the scene crackles with tension. Kudos to writer David Lindsay-Abaire for this, and Daniel Sullivan for the tight direction.

Goldsberry, Donovan and McDormand all deserve Tony nominations for this show, and the great Estelle Parsons does her usual wonderful work as the landlady. The themes of race, class, and sacrifice are examined and the ending has a surprising twist, one that will have people debating which side they are on and what other good people would do in the same situation. It is the best new play of the season.

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