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Gerald Carpenter: Ensemble Theatre Paints a Sympathetic Portrait of ‘Good People’

For its second production in its new venue, the New Victoria Street Theater, the Ensemble Theatre Co. is offering Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire.

David Lindsay-Abaire
Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire

The play, running through Feb. 23, is directed by Jenny Sullivan and stars Alicia Sedwick, Geoffrey Lower, Tracey Leigh, DeeDee Rescher, Catherine Coulson and Matthew Grondin.

The Ensemble's synopsis of the plays informs us that "Good People takes place in two Boston neighborhoods: working-class Southie and upscale Chestnut Hill. Margie Walsh has just lost her job at the Dollar Store and is now one bingo game away from being evicted from her home. Perhaps her high school boyfriend, Mikey, who has managed to escape his blue-collar upbringing to become a successful doctor, could be her ticket out. Filled with humor, pathos and suspense, Good People asks the question: 'Is where we grew up inexorably written on our future chances of success?'”

ETC’s Jonathan Fox says, “Good People is an extraordinary play, not just because it is extremely humorous and insightful, but also for its gripping plot twists. It’s an important play, and I’m thrilled it brings to us a talented cast under the direction of Jenny Sullivan.”

Lindsay-Abaire was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for his play Rabbit Hole. Also a lyricist and screenwriter, Lindsay-Abaire also wrote off-Broadway's Fuddy Meers and the book for Shrek, The Musical.

Part of the American Dream is the desire to escape, not necessarily our pasts, but our context. Good People examines the question of whether this is still possible.

Alexis de Tocqueville said the defining characteristic of America is "equality of condition" — we have no peasants or hereditary nobility, and no one who holds public office is legally able to pass that office on to his or her children. Yet, looking around, there is little to be seen that supports our boast to being the "land of opportunity." And if you want to get out of the neighborhood where you grew up, you generally have to go alone.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon dramatized this very attractively in Good Will Hunting, and also gave us South Boston — "Southie" — as the archetype of a tightly-knit, impoverished, working-class neighborhood. Many people in these old neighborhoods — Good People's Margie Walsh, perhaps, among them — don't actually want to get out; they just want to make a decent living and raise their children properly, but the dynamics of contemporary society are against them.

Frances McDormand — Mrs. Joel and Ethan Coen — played Margie in the original Broadway run (2011) of Good People, and she won that year's Tony for Best Actress.

Good People plays at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays (no 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16), with an extra performance at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11 and a Special Saturday Matinee at 4 p.m. Feb. 15.

Admission is $40 to $65. Discounts are available to seniors and groups of 10 or more. Youth price (29 and under) is $20. Tickets are available at the New Victoria Theater box office at 33 W. Victoria St., by phone at 805.965.5400, or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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