Bingo!! Steppenwolf’s GOOD PEOPLE Is A Fascinating Look at Luck
Steppenwolf gets their season off with a bang mounting playwright David Lindsey-Abaire’s 2012 Tony® winning Good People which is a biting and contagiously funny work that brilliantly questions the notion of how much luck plays into a person’s lot in life. Impeccably directed by K. Todd Freedman, the story opens behind a Dollar Store in a low income neighborhood of South Boston where we witness Margie Walsh getting fired by her young boss, Stevie, for being chronically late, a problem that seems to have long plagued her employment career.
We learn that Margie has never been given a break in life. With a broken family and no mentors to guide her, Margie dropped out of high school after becoming pregnant and delivering a severely handicapped daughter. She lives paycheck to paycheck and this firing leaves her in desperate straights. Margie is then prodded by her two Bingo playing friends to pay a visit to her ex-high school boyfriend, Mikey and see if he can provide her with a job. Mikey was one of the few to get out of Southie, go to college and become a doctor.
After leaving numerous messages without a return call, Margie makes a surprise visit to Dr. Mikey’s office, learns that he is married to a younger African American woman, has a daughter and is seemingly living the perfect life in upscale Chestnut Hill. When Margie makes an unannounced visit to Mikey’s house, the play takes on a whole new dimension exploring class warfare, prejudice and taking personal responsibility for one’s circumstances. The relevancy cannot be timelier as these are the exact issues that are being carved out with our current political candidates running for President.
Mr. Lindsey-Abaire, who wrote the fantastic 2007 play The Rabbit Hole (as well as the book for Shrek, The Musical), once again proves his pension for irony. Akin to the Hollywood Wahlbergs, Lindsey-Abaire draws on his Southie roots and is able to get his point across through lucid comic lines that instantly turn into dramatic counterpoints. The notions of “luck” play out in different manners, whether it is winning at a BINGO game, the crafting of rabbits (lucky right?) or having your girlfriend free you from a lifetime of hell on earth; what we choose or have chosen for us are put at issue.
Mr. Freedman’s cast is stellar. As Margie, Mariann Mayberry gives her best performance to date. She is instantly believable and more importantly, likeable as that likability is tested as the play unfolds. Keith Kupferer’s Mikey is the perfect match for Mayberry’s Margie. They both have great stage chemistry and interact off each other’s lines flawlessly. As the conflicted wife Kate, Alana Arenas is pure genius and is reason alone for seeing this play. As Margie’s “support” group, Molly Regan (Dottie) and Lusia Strus (Jean) play out their scenes as if we were watching a television sitcom that has been renewed for years. The threesome serve and volley their lines like an expert tennis match and never once do you question the length of time and turmoil each of these ladies has suffered. Will Allen’s Stevie, who gets the story rolling, gives a very inward performance that rewards us in the final scene. All the action takes place on Walt Spangler’s various intricate socio-economic sets.
Good People is the right play at the right time. This is a conversation provoking work that will make the audience members look at their own stance in life and, like Margie, question how much luck played a part in it.
Good People runs through November 11, 2012 at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL, call 312-335-1650, www.steppenwolf.org: running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission.