Lights down. Without hesitation, a standing ovation sweeps everyone on their feet.
Centaur Theatre Company’s Good People, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and directed by Roy Surette, is a funny and profound story that is sure to tug the heartstrings of its audience.
Set in Boston’s Southie, an Irish working-class neighbourhood, where happiness is said to be a matter of luck, Margie Walsh (Johanna Nutter) is a hard-working single mother with a handicapped adult daughter. After losing her minimum-wage job at the dollar store, she decides to visit an old boyfriend she hasn’t seen in 30 years. Turns out, her old boyfriend, Mike (Paul Hopkins), got lucky.
Mike became a successful doctor and is now living in the rich suburb of Chestnut Hill with his wife Kate (Kim Nelson) and their child. Mike believes a ‘good’ life results from ‘good’ choices.
“You’re wrong,” says Margie. “Not everyone has the same choices.”
The show was praised for its quick-witted dialogue: Margie’s cynical thoughts and deadpan humour, Jean’s (Margie’s friend) foul-mouthed complaints and concern for her friends, and Mike’s outburst and frustration when his past as a Southie catches up with him. Every character has his or her own reasons for finding life unfair and seeing happiness as a luxurious privilege. But as the story unravels, it becomes clear that happiness cannot be bought.
The intricate set design added to the intimate atmosphere of the show. In the living room scenes, the audience can tilt one way or the other and peek into the hallways or through open doors. The decor is so realistic that it feels like you’re inside the character’s home and eavesdropping on their conversations.
John C. Dinning did a fabulous job with the stage as it is one of the most stunning designs in a long time. In a blink of an eye, the stage transforms itself between each scene. The audience follows the actors from a back-alley into a homey kitchen, then into a luxurious office and from there into a run-down church. The details, such as the graffiti on the walls, made the scenes that much more believable and captivating.
The props didn’t just serve a visual role — they weren’t just scattered about to visually enhance the scene. Rather, they were often used by the actors as a way to express their emotions when in silence.
Good People is one of the few plays that can pull off the ‘awkward silence’ and keep the audience holding their breath. It leaves viewers to ponder that perhaps the happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything.
Good People runs until Dec. 9 at Centaur Theatre. For more information visit centaurtheatre.com