Bay Area Theater Preview: GOOD PEOPLE (Marin Theatre Company)

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by Tony Frankel on August 25, 2013

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


Having seen productions of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People at both the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles and Steppenwolf in Chicago, I can attest that this is the playwright’s best work (it is currently the most produced play in America). Knowing the quality and professionalism of Marin Theatre Company, whose own production opens this week, it is safe to say that this is the best bet for a theater outing in the Bay Area.

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema Bay Area preview of Marin Theatre Company’s production of “Good People” in Mill ValleyIn describing the plot of Good People, one might categorize this seriocomedy as a “simple play.” It is basically about everyday people who live in South Boston, trying to make their way in the world. The way the story is told, however, is extraordinarily compelling. The protagonist Margie needs work in the worst way, yet she sabotages herself by getting fired from a Dollar Store for being consistently late. This middle-aged woman with a “retarded” daughter then approaches a successful doctor, her erstwhile high-school flame, for a job. But Margie’s desperation to survive makes her mouthy, degrading, unreliable and deceitful. From a Church Bingo Hall to the ratty dwelling she cannot afford, to a physician’s office and then his upscale home, we are compassionate to her plight, even as she is prone to undermine her opportunities. Margie may be an unremarkable person, but Lindsay-Abaire places her in remarkable situations.

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema Bay Area preview of Marin Theatre Company’s production of “Good People” in Mill ValleyThis is also a script which contains universal, underlying themes that provoke the spectators to examine both the world in which they live and their life philosophies. A satisfying ending doesn’t necessarily mean that the story is resolved or that a protagonist learns a life lesson. For me, gratification in the theater occurs when the play’s themes stay with me long after the show, leaving me riddled with questions. Good People may provoke some meaty discussions among theatergoers: Can we get what we want if we work hard enough, or is that a myth? Does our luck increase once we start telling the truth about our lives? Does prosperity truly make us happy, or does the convenience associated with wealth merely camouflage our despair? Do our circumstances define who we are? Are we trapped by our socioeconomic status, or is that just an illusion? If you lie to protect someone, are you a good person?

The play was largely written in response to the playwright hearing “Where are the American plays about class? Why don’t American playwrights write about class?” Lindsay-Abaire told The Boston Globe: “With the economy being what it is, it seemed like there’s not a more relevant time to talk about the struggles of the working class,” adding in an interview with The New York Times, “Class is something I know about. I’ve lived it every day of my life, and it shaped me in my identity.”

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema Bay Area preview of Marin Theatre Company’s production of “Good People” in Mill ValleyThe MTC production will mark the debut of director Tracy Young, who not only did incredible work for 14 years with Tim Robbins’s the Actors’ Gang in L.A., but also directed an extraordinarily inventive production of The Imaginary Invalid, which I was lucky enough to see at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. MTC’s production also features a cast of local actors with impressive resumés, including returning MTC veterans Mark Anderson Phillips (Salomania at Aurora), Amy Resnick (who offered one of my favorite Bay Area performances in Body Awareness at Aurora), Anne Darragh and Jamie Jones (both of A Delicate Balance at Aurora, for which Jones received a San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award nomination). The cast is rounded out with the MTC debuts of actors ZZ Moor (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at African American Shakespeare Company) and Ben Euphrat.

Based in Mill Valley, MTC hails itself as a 47-year old professional nonprofit theater that is a destination for exhilarating performances, inspired new American plays and powerful theatrical experiences. This is exactly what you will get when you see Good People.

Tony Frankel’s Stage and Cinema Bay Area preview of Marin Theatre Company’s production of “Good People” in Mill Valley

photos by Ed Smith

Good People
Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley
August 27 – September 15, 2013
for tickets, call (415) 388-5208 or visit

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