Class occupies a paradoxical place on the American stage. The idea that material success both embodies and mutilates the American dream is at the heart of many theatrical masterpieces, but it’s something that seldom gets spoken out loud. In Good People, David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 play about two neighborhoods in Boston, that oversight has been rectified. Although Lindsay-Abaire, who grew up in working-class South Boston, is highly qualified to reveal the truth about his old neighborhood, his play is only a qualified success. Good People raises good questions about relative standards of living, life choices, and luck, and the second act packs some plot-twisting punches, but the ending neatly sidesteps the story’s main point, settling for an ambiguous answer by changing the subject.
Nevertheless, this excellent production, which stars Alicia Sedwick as Margie, has lots to recommend it. Jenny Sullivan’s direction is excellent, and each of the cast members contributes something valuable to the mix. DeeDee Rescher is a riot as Jean, Margie’s best frenemy, and Catherine Coulson is equally a hoot as Dottie, Margie’s obstreperous landlady. New Hampshire native Matthew Grondin nails the difficult Boston vowels as Stevie, a young dollar-store manager with a heart of gold. As Mike, the high school friend who has escaped Southie to tony Chestnut Hill by way of the Ivy League, Geoffrey Lower negotiates a role requiring multiple shifts in accent and attitude. But this is Margie’s play, and Sedwick does an outstanding job bringing every aspect of this difficult woman to light. Nobody’s fool but her own, Margie combines flashes of witty sarcasm with a deep pessimism that almost has her beat. Whether she has progressed after all she goes through in the play is anyone’s guess, but thanks to Sedwick’s strong performance, it’s a wild and entertaining ride.