• Theater Review: Breeding tells in ‘Good People’
    By Jim Lowe
     | April 26,2013
     
    Photo by Lindsay Raymondjack

    Jean (Maura O’Brien), Margaret (Mary Wheeler) and Dottie (Katie Owens) have some fun in Vermont Stage’s “Good People.”

    BURLINGTON — Roots count, and they count big time in David Lindsay-Abaire’s compelling tale of a reunion between two Boston Southies.

    Vermont Stage Company opened a deeply touching and often humorous production of “Good People,” Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 Tony Award-winning play, Wednesday at FlynnSpace.

    Living in a poor South Boston neighborhood, middle-aged Margaret has just lost her job at the Dollar Store because of chronic lateness. This isn’t the first time this has happened, as her adult learning-disabled daughter is constantly in crisis. But it leaves Margaret in a bad way, and she already owes back rent.

    Margaret’s feisty friend Jean persuades Margaret to approach Mike, who has escaped the South Side and become a doctor. Margaret is as reluctant to approach Mike as he is to respond. But when they do get together, what begins as a polite little dance around the truth ends in an all-out war.

    Both are reduced to the street-fighting techniques of their Southie roots — but Margaret finds solace in the most unexpected place.

    “Good People” can, perhaps, be best described as a black comedy, and Vermont Stage’s production, sensitively directed by Tara Lee Downs, thoroughly enjoys the comedy as well as its blackness. The Flynn’s resident company recently started employing largely Vermont casts, and this time it certainly paid off.

    Mary Wheeler, after a bit too manic a beginning, proved quite dimensional as Margaret, appropriately combining urban feistiness and desperation. As Mike, John Jensen matched her all the way, reduced from the sympathetic doctor to the Southie street fighter.

    Amy Burrell-Cormier, too, had real dimension as Mike’s yuppie wife, Kate, who proves to have as much fight in her as her husband and Margaret.

    Maura O’Brien was a riot as Margaret’s earthy friend Jean, matched by the wonderfully acerbic tongue of Katie Owens as Margaret’s landlady, Dottie. Though a little too consistently meek, Robert Harte was a most sympathetic Steve, the beleaguered Dollar Store manager.

    “Good People” is an emotionally complex play and wasn’t entirely consistent at Wednesday’s opening night performance. But with this high level of direction and acting, it will likely become even more intense, humorous and compelling.

    The physical production benefited from a novel three-part set from Jeff Modereger that circumvented the awkwardness of FlynnSpace, expertly lit by Jeffrey Salzberg, with appropriate costumes by Cora Fauser.

    Vermont Stage’s “Good People” is intelligent, entertaining and compelling theater.



    Vermont Stage Company

    Vermont Stage Company presents David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People” April 24-May 12 at the Flynn Center’s FlynnSpace, 153 Main St. in Burlington. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased at the Flynn Regional Box Office, 863-5966, or online at www.flynntix.org. For information, call VSC at 862-1497 or visit www.vtstage.org.

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