Thursday, January 17, 2013

GOOD PEOPLE • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep. continues its season with David Lindsay-Abaire's sincere and timely look at the underclass.  It centers on Margaret (Denise Cormier), who's a little down on her luck.  Not that she seems to have had much of that to begin with.  But is it luck, circumstances of fate, or a willingness to work hard for what you want?  

Margaret's a "Southie" -- residing in a working class south Boston neighborhood and known as Margie with a hard "g" to her friends.  When the play begins, she has been called out into the alley behind the Family Dollar store where she works by her younger boss, Stevie (Aaron Orion Baker), to be fired.  Margie's been repeatedly late, and Stevie is starting to catch some heat from his boss.  She tries to explain to him that along with the unreliability of public transport, her adult and developmentally disabled daughter, Joyce, requires a sitter when she's away, and her caretaker isn't always on time.

Denise Cormier (Margaret), Andrea Gallo (Dottie)
and Elizabeth Ann Townsend (Jean).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Still, after many warnings for her tardiness, Stevie has to let her go.  Margie shares her troubles with her landlady, Dottie (Andrea Gallo) and longtime friend Jean (Elizabeth Ann Townsend).  Dottie (the aforementioned unreliable caretaker) is considering the possibility of renting out Margie's place to her own son, while supplementing her own income by constructing little rabbits made from flower pots.  Jean suggests that she pay a visit to an old boyfriend from high school -- Mikey (R. Ward Duffy) for any possible job opportunities.  Mikey has made it out of the old neighborhood and is now earning a nice living as a doctor.  Desperate to find a new job, Margie drops by his office in the city.

Denise Cormier (Margaret) and Ward Duffy (Mike).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Their visit starts with an uneasy bit of catching up, and modest but pointed sparring.  Margie accuses Mike of being "lace curtain" -- someone who has forgotten their roots.  Mike is offended by this, but admits that he doesn't have any jobs available.  He eventually and timidly invites her to his birthday party that his wife is throwing him at their house.  He suggests that there may be some attendees who might have a job for Margie.  Jean is all for the idea -- going so far as to suggest that Margie tell Mike that her daughter is his.  You never know, right?

Once Margie gets to the party in upscale Chestnut Hill, she learns that it's been cancelled, but Mike and his wife Kate (Zoey Martinson) insist that she stay anyway.  The awkward vibe during Margie's visit to Mike's doctors office continues here.  The differences between Margie and Mike's places in life now bubble and stew just under the surface while she's there for the visit, and after a period of time, sparks start to fly.  Funny how these two people choose to remember their past…  But it's these straightforward confrontations of the past that serve as the boiling point in the second act.

Ward Duffy (Mike), Zoey Martinson (Kate)
and Denise Cormier (Margaret).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Mindfully directed by Seth Gordon, the look and feel of the play ring true.  Denise Cormier as Margaret goes from proud to vulnerable, provoking anger and sympathy with smooth strokes.  Andrea Gallo as Dottie and Elizabeth Ann Townsend as the brassy Jean provide much flavor to the proceedings.  The roles of Stevie and Kate (Aaron Orion Baker and Zoey Martinson) are limited, but Baker provides an honest and well meaning feel to his role as a dollar store employee tasked with the job of firing someone in his own neck of the woods, and Martinson contributes much to the dynamics of the second act showdown.  Kent Dorsey's scenic design offers rotating sets revealing Dottie's run-down kitchen, a bingo hall, and Mike's uptown office, as well as his posh home -- all perfect in tone with the addition of Michael Lincoln's lighting design.  Rusty Wandall's sound design includes a variety of working class rock music and the costumes by Myrna Colley-Lee provide a lot of information about the characters.

Congress may be wrestling with the dire economic realities of the country, but families like Margaret's have been struggling to survive all their lives.  The vast divide between "the haves" and "the have-nots" gets a wonderfully entertaining and engaging production here.  Check it out -- it's playing until the 23rd.

Andrea Gallo (Dottie), Elizabeth Ann Townsend (Jean),
Denise Cormier (Margaret), and Aaron Orion Baker (Stevie).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by Seth Gordon
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through January 23 | tickets: $19.50 - $79.00
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesday to Friday at 8pm, selected Wednesdays at 1:30pm, Saturdays at 5pm, selected Saturdays at 9pm, Sundays at 2pm, selected Sundays at 7pm

Aaron Orion Baker* (Stevie), Denise Cormier* (Margaret), R. Ward Duffy* (Mike), Andrea Gallo* (Dottie), Zoey Martinson* (Kate), Elizabeth Ann Townsend* (Jean).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Scenic design by Kent Dorsey; costume design by Myrna Colley-Lee; lighting design by Michael Lincoln; sound design by Rusty Wandall; stage manager, Champe Leary; asst. stage manager, Tony Dearing.

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