Wednesday, July 18, 2018
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
Grief and wit, heritage and family dynamics collide in ‘Bad Jews’ at American Stage

Grief and wit, heritage and family dynamics collide in ‘Bad Jews’ at American Stage

ST. PETERSBURG — Whatever else he learned at Cornell University and the Juilliard School, playwright Joshua Harmon surely learned family dynamics. His play, Bad Jews, bristles with wit and malevolence dished out by people for whom familiarity breeds ...
Published: 07/17/18
‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ starts a summer run at Show Palace in Hudson

‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ starts a summer run at Show Palace in Hudson

HUDSON — If you’re into country, Honky Tonk Laundry, which opens July 21 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, might be the ticket. Written by Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes/Life Could Be a Dream?), this comedy musical features a two-woman cast ...
Published: 07/16/18
What’s on stage this week: ‘Bad Jews,’ ‘Red,’ ‘It Shoulda Been You’

What’s on stage this week: ‘Bad Jews,’ ‘Red,’ ‘It Shoulda Been You’

AMERICAN STAGE: BAD JEWSWe know that death draws family members closer together. Except when it drives them further apart. A grandfather’s valuable heirloom shifts relatives from grief to competition, questions about who was closer to the deceased an...
Published: 07/11/18
Paul Reiser on 'Mad About You' revival: 'My guess is it won't happen'

Paul Reiser on 'Mad About You' revival: 'My guess is it won't happen'

Paul Reiser has some bad news for Mad About You fans hoping for a series revival. "It’s kind of stuck in the business end of it now," the comic, actor and co-creator of NBC’s Emmy-winning sitcom said by phone Monday. "Sony is trying to f...
Published: 07/10/18
Review: Confident brush strokes paint an eminently watchable ‘Red’ at Heather Theatre

Review: Confident brush strokes paint an eminently watchable ‘Red’ at Heather Theatre

TAMPA — You can always count on the Heather Theatre to do one thing. And that is to produce meaningful plays, and find within each the burning ember that gives off heat and light.So it is again with Red, John Logan’s deconstruction of a brilliant art...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/10/18
This week on stage: ‘Cinderella,’ ‘So Long Life,’ American Stage previews ‘Bad Jews’

This week on stage: ‘Cinderella,’ ‘So Long Life,’ American Stage previews ‘Bad Jews’

THE BALL IS BACK: CINDERELLAThe national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella comes with flamboyant colors, ebullient music and lavish costumes."My favorite song is a huge ball scene at the end of Act 1, when Ella and the prince fall in love ...
Published: 07/05/18
St. Petersburg Opera finishes season with an energetic ‘The Music Man’

St. Petersburg Opera finishes season with an energetic ‘The Music Man’

ST. PETERSBURG — Musically, the creative team behind the St. Petersburg Opera’s season-ending musical, The Music Man, were clearly going all out. Meredith Willson’s paean to small-town Americana outdid West Side Story in the 1958 To...
Updated one month ago
This week on stage: Cindy Williams in Menopause the Musical, The Music Man at St. Petersburg Opera

This week on stage: Cindy Williams in Menopause the Musical, The Music Man at St. Petersburg Opera

STRAZ CENTER: MENOPAUSE THE MUSICALCindy Williams has made a career of saying yes. When producer Garry Marshall asked Williams and Penny Marshall, his sister, to parlay the success of their roles in Happy Days into a spin-off series, Williams agreed....
Updated one month ago
Parody and theater trivia combine in Freefall’s light-hearted of ‘Musical of Musicals’

Parody and theater trivia combine in Freefall’s light-hearted of ‘Musical of Musicals’

ST. PETERSBURG — Forgive yourself if you recognize only a portion of the dozens of musicals being lampooned in The Musical of Musicals — The Musical!, Freefall Theatre’s season closer. This mash-up of the works of five celebrated composers reads like...
Updated one month ago
On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

SENDUP: MUSICAL OF MUSICALSFive composers, a talented cast, choreography by Cheryl Lee and music directed by Michael Raabe — that’s Freefall Theatre’s recipe for a laugh-filled, season-ending summer musical, appropriately titled The Musical of Musica...
Updated one month ago