According to Curtain Call Theatre’s program, “Good People” “looks at the dangerous consequences of holding on to the past or leaving it behind.”
In the capable hands of director Chris Foster, a strong cast and a crack tech team, David Lindsay-Abaire’s satisfying treatment of this idea is brought to vivid life in a production that will have you chuckling, puzzling and fretting for the wellbeing of a trio of adults.
Margaret (Colleen Lovett) holds on to her past. At the top of the play, she is fired from her low-paying dollar store job by manager Stevie (Adam Landsberg) because of tardiness. Unfortunately, her lateness is often the consequence of checkered babysitting for Joyce, her special needs adult daughter.
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Rd., Latham
WHEN: Through Feb. 8
HOW MUCH: $23
MORE INFO: 877-7529 or www.curtaincalltheatre.com
Margaret abjures going to a factory job for rent money for landlady Dottie (Resa Tanner), who, with Margaret’s friend Jean (Andrea Valenti), commiserate with her situation over coffee or at bingo games. All in all, Margaret seems destined to stay in the rough South Boston neighborhood she grew up in.
But there may be a way out. An old Southie flame, Mike (Patrick White), became a physician, and now he and his African American wife, Kate (Stacey Rowland), a college professor, live in tony Chestnut Hill. Margaret goes to his office in search of work, and from then on, worlds — economic, social, racial, and personal — collide.
The writing in the pivotal opening scene to Act II is often unconvincing. Lindsay-Abaire forces plot twists by referring to a thin episode from Mike’s youth and having Kate probe Margaret for information about the teenage Mike; given the fact that this is the first time the two women have met, the setup — a compelling bit of fireworks notwithstanding — feels contrived.
Elsewhere, Lindsay-Abaire is successful in creating moments of genuine humor and pathos. You will never not want to know about these characters, and it’s to the author’s credit that your opinions of them frequently change, layered as their personalities are.
The six scenes are in five locales, a challenge for scenic designer G. Warren Stiles and lighting designer Lily Fossner. They meet it, though, even if the upstage curtain feels like a compromise. Linda Bertrand’s costumes and Jay Spriggs’s sound design are spot-on.
White cracks the whip right out of the gate in a heated scene between Lovett and Landsberg, and he paces the rest of the show beautifully. The cast — spawting credible Bawston accents — picks up cues seamlessly. Rowland has a particularly fine moment when she talks firmly to Margaret about the responsibilities of a mother, and her understanding of the character is evident.
In terms of stage presence, she will no doubt grow. Landsberg’s Stevie is a mensch, someone able to keep his sweetness even as he’s trying to get ahead at work. Tanner and Valenti are a kind of comic Greek chorus, providing exposition, egging Margaret on and consoling her when she’s down.
White subtly calibrates the change from hero to heel to human. Mike deserves a pat on the back for getting where he wanted to from rocky beginnings, but he’s not above manipulation and lying to keep things on an even keel.
Lovett is astounding as Margaret, unafraid to make her off-putting in her own passive-aggressive manipulations of Mike and poignant in her defense of the life she has had to lead, largely for the sake of her daughter. Lovett’s movements and line readings make Margaret a complex soul.