Thursday, December 14, 2017
Stage

Review: American Stage's 'Good People' a masterful take on nice versus good

ST. PETERSBURG — A galvanizing moment in Good People, a drama about a working class mother trying to survive, comes late in the play.

The genteel wife of a former boyfriend stares at Margie, of Boston's Southie district, and levels the ultimate accusation: "You're not a nice person."

The taut story line spends two quick hours unraveling euphemisms such as "nice," the difference between nice and good, and who embodies either trait. American Stage Theatre Company has opened the season, the first selected by producing artistic director Stephanie Gularte, with a grounded, coherent production that is both thought provoking and a pleasure to watch.

The first play by Pulitzer-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire about his native Boston, Good People examines the gap between wealth and want, between Southie and the affluent Chestnut Hill suburb a few miles away, where Kate accuses Margie of not being nice.

This show, also directed by Gularte, makes sure to emphasize the key moments and metaphors. A set by Frank Chavez rotates on a dime, contrasting an upscale and subdued living room with a cramped Southie kitchen like opposite sides of tossed coin. Margie and two friends, the straightforward Jean and Dottie, her brusque landlord, never miss a session at the church bingo hall, the neighborhood's version of the stock market. Significant words and phrases hang in the air just long enough to let them sink in.

The story opens with Margie being fired from her dollar store cashier's job for chronic tardiness, which she inevitably ties to her adult disabled daughter. Her bruising biography, which seems to worsen as the play moves forward, could have been tough to absorb, if not for a script that sparkles with authenticity and a deft and complex portrayal by Rebecca Dines. Through hundreds of tiny articulations and inflections, Dines brings to life a character who sniffs out affectations and punctures them, whose impatience for artifice often leads to awkwardness.

The flip side of that personality and story is Mike, the endocrinologist from Southie who lives in Chestnut Hill. Thirty years earlier, Mike and Margie were "friends for a few months," long enough to conceive Margie's daughter. Until now, his possible paternity had remained an open secret. Under the heightened stress of joblessness, what does Margie do with that information? You'll have to see the play to find out.

There are several reasons why you should.

The first is that this play digs deeply, first with a power shovel and then an archaeologist's brush, unearthing fragments of the past that help explain the present. It raises questions without supplying easy answers, tackling serious subjects with a light touch and a regional flavor that disguises its universality.

Top tier performances across the board allow that play's subtleties to shine through, at times enhancing the script with further layers of interpretation. Peter Reardon portrays Mike cleanly and with a certain neatness that foreshadows more ominous elements to come. The two girlfriends, Vickie Daignault as Jean and Bonnie Agan as Dottie, are a hoot. Britt Michael Gordon turns in an appropriately understated performance as Stevie, Margie's boss.

Renata Eastlick, as Mike's wife, Kate, delivers the goods in the play's most powerful moments. But the strongest recommendation is that all of these elements, from acting to the bumper music to set design and costumes, seem like second nature, congruent elements that together make a larger point. Like its gritty central character, this production is not "nice."

But it's good. Very good.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
The Phantom never dies, orchestra doings this week

The Phantom never dies, orchestra doings this week

PHANTOM REDUX: LOVE NEVER DIESTurns out, the Phantom survived that angry mob. We know that because the antihero of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical The Phantom of the Opera re-emerges in the 2010 sequel, Love Never Dies.It opens in 1907 New York, w...
Published: 12/13/17
Is Gilbert Gottfried really that annoying in real life?

Is Gilbert Gottfried really that annoying in real life?

A new documentary about comedian Gilbert Gottfried reveals someone more mild-mannered than his stage persona, married with children, verging on dull.His voice doesn’t grate, dropping half its nasal quality and all of its foul-mouthed bluster. Shy win...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

ST. PETERSBURG — In some ways, the Florida Orchestra’s gala with Sting looked like other concerts of a mega-star. Most of the fans who packed the Mahaffey Theater bought their tickets the day they went on sale. They cheered and sang along at the open...
Published: 12/10/17
What’s on stage this week: Florida Orchestra happy hour concerts are back, Book of Mormon lottery

What’s on stage this week: Florida Orchestra happy hour concerts are back, Book of Mormon lottery

BACK ON TAP: HAPPY HOUR CONCERTSWith an opening year on the books, it looks like Happy Hour Concerts are here to stay. The Florida Orchestra figured last year it was time to create a user-friendly atmosphere geared to 9-to-5 commuters who could use t...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Live Oak Theatre Company presents Christmas show Dec. 15-16 in Brooksville

Live Oak Theatre Company presents Christmas show Dec. 15-16 in Brooksville

BROOKSVILLE — Singing Christmas carols, listening to stories while sitting in front of the fireplace, watching twinkling Christmas lights. For many, these are the feelings that trigger memories of Christmases past.Such memories will be reignited when...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/09/17
Musical take on miserly classic

Musical take on miserly classic

Photo courtesy of Jimmy FerraroThe new Millennium Theatre Company will present a musical production of What in the Dickens Happened To Scrooge? weekends, Dec. 9-17, at 10005 Ridge Road, New Port Richey. Show times are at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
How to get $25 tickets to ‘Book of Mormon’ at the Straz Center

How to get $25 tickets to ‘Book of Mormon’ at the Straz Center

The Book of Mormon’s producers have made lower-priced tickets possible for a few lucky fans.To win a $25 ticket (that’s less than half of the starting price for seats), it’s safest to show up two and a half hours before curtain. One lottery entry per...
Published: 12/05/17
Orchestra delivers a stirring Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2

Orchestra delivers a stirring Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2

TAMPA — Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy a concert. I mean really, you can work yourself to death trying to figure out every nuance, as a critic or music aficionado. I don’t think Sergei Rachmaninoff, who described music as nonverbal po...
Published: 12/02/17
Our music critics wonder, how will Sting mesh with the Florida Orchestra?

Our music critics wonder, how will Sting mesh with the Florida Orchestra?

I was working construction the year Roxanne peaked on the Billboard charts and was playing all the time. With some of the more monotonous jobs, such as grading slabs, the radio is an important part of getting through it. I wasn’t into the Polic...
Published: 11/30/17
You should go see terrific ‘Fun Home’ at the Straz

You should go see terrific ‘Fun Home’ at the Straz

TAMPA The best open house this holiday season runs this week, but it’s not about nostalgia or sentiment. Fun Home tells a true story of the cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s upbringing in a lovingly dysfunctional family. The graphic novel of the same name ...
Published: 11/29/17