David Lindsay-Abaire's study of financial struggles and class immobility in South Boston gets a quick second Chicago production
After its hit production at Steppenwolf in 2012, Good People is now receiving its “storefront premiere” courtesy of Redtwist Theatre. If that seems a bit fast to you, you’re not alone; Redtwist has been doing this a lot lately. Now one could argue that the intimacy of a small storefront theater creates a fundamentally different experience. But is it enough?
Well, Good People for one is well-served by Redtwist’s intimate quarters. David Lindsay-Abaire’s Boston-set play is one of conversations, of small moments exploding into big ones. In Matt Hawkins's production, when middle-aged Southie gal Margie (Jacqueline Grandt) is fired from her job at the dollar store, it happens two feet away from you. The awkwardness as she begs for it back is palpable. And when Margie takes bingo pal Jean’s (KC Karen Hill) suggestion and goes to ask for a job from Mike (Mark Pracht)—an old friend from the neighborhood who’s made good as a wealthy doctor—the pair’s passive-aggressive repartee oozes mutual resentment all over the front row.
Hawkins dials up the heat accordingly, as Act II finds Margie crashing Mike’s elegant home bearing uncomfortable truths about the boy he actually used to be. Yet in the end the play never feels fully cooked-through. Margie seems softer than she should be, and Mike is too transparently seething. The story’s prickly complexities settle into comfortable agitprop about privilege and class. Redtwist’s Good People is a good production but not a great one. If you saw it at Steppenwolf, you can probably take a pass.
Redtwist Theatre. By David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Matt Hawkins. With Jacqueline Grandt, Mark Pracht, KC Karen Hill, Aaron Kirby, Kiki Layne, Kathleen Ruhl. Running time: 2hr 10mins; one intermission.