Left – Gael Ballantyne, Tara Morice and Jane Phegan. Cover – Tara Morice and Christopher Stollery. Photos – Clare Hawley
“I'm not rich”
“That makes me uncomfortable?”
There's certainly a good amount of uncomfortable in David Lindsay-Abaire's play, Good People.
It begins with Margaret being sacked from her job as a checkout chick at a Dollar Store for constant and habitual tardiness, an uncomfortable situation made all the more so because her manager is a person she has known since he was in vitro.
Her excuse for her chronic lateness is a teenage daughter, born premature, and suffering developmental problems. It is a good excuse worn threadbare by overuse.
Margaret seeks solace and comfort at the Bingo hall with two cronies, Dottie and Jean. Dottie is also Margaret's landlord, so there is an undercurrent of uncomfortableness as to how the now unemployed is going to make rent.
Jean suggests she apply for a job at a doctor's office, the doctor being an old flame of Margaret's, Mike, who escaped the South Boston suburbs to study medicine; that old chestnut – to climb the social ladder and buy a house on Chestnut Hill.
Making contact with Mike she secures an invitation to a party he is giving for his daughter, a party that is consequently cancelled, a cancellation that Margaret is suspicious of.
The second act begins with Margaret attending Mike's house suspecting the cancellation was a ruse to exclude her and fully expecting the party to proceed.
Uncomfortability is ratcheted when she discovers the party has indeed been cancelled, then ratcheted up, notch by notch, with Margaret offering stories from the past to Mike's wife, Kate.
Mark Kilmurry's production of Good People is slickly, skillfully staged, Tobhiyah Stone Feller's set design that morphs from roller door struggle street to gracious, genteel comfortability is ingenious.
Tara Morice makes a comfortable fit of Margaret, a simmering volcano of vulnerable victim-hood ready to spit vitriol in misplaced vengeance. “It's normal to struggle. For most people it's normal. Most people I know at least. That's just how it is”, she cries, yet cuts down Mike's struggle to better himself by hard study and application. Morice's characterisation clearly illustrates Margie's lack of application to aspire. She claims to have sacrificed her life so that Mike could succeed, but a brittle, bitter jealousy resides just under the surface of her sassy, forthright facade. That brittleness is heartbreakingly portrayed by the actress in the final confrontation with Mike's wife, Kate.
Jane Phegan as the phlegmatic Jean is a scene stealer in the first act, funny, articulate, focused, a foundation layer for the ructions to come.
Gael Ballantyne as the suitably named Dottie, gives us a decidedly undoting feckless frenemy, a sub prime landlord supplementing her income in the manufacture of hideously kitsch ornaments.
Christopher Stollery's portrayal of Mike is a thoughtful, layered navigation of a man fearful that his fairytale life is fracturing, defensive of his present domesticity and in denial of past guilts.
Zinzi Okenyo as Kate, presents the personification of openness that subtly hints at the hurdles she has in her relationship to her husband.
Drew Livingston as Stevie, a salt of the South side Boston earth, plays possibly the only true good person in the play, who weathers the slings and arrows of narrow minded aspersions and neighbourhood folk lore.
Good People is a good play about class, race and gender politics, comfortably comic mostly, but the laughs leavened to ferment the uncomfortable.
Ensemble Theatre presents
by David Lindsay-Abaire
Director Mark Kilmurry
Venue: Ensemble Theatre | 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli, NSW
Dates: 7 April – 21 May 2016