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‘Good People’ face tough times in Interplayers play

Thu., Jan. 23, 2014

Margie Walsh is at the end of her rope. A single mother recently fired from a minimum-wage job, Margie (pronounced with a hard “g”) is desperately trying to make ends meet in her working-class South Boston neighborhood (or Southie, as the locals call it) in David-Lindsay Abaire’s play “Good People,” which opens today at Interplayers Theatre.

The show, which premiered on Broadway starring Frances McDormand in 2011, is firmly rooted in the regional dialects and Boston. But the play’s director, Jack Bentz, believes that the social issues presented by Abaire are universal.

“It’s a hard time right now,” Bentz said. “There are a lot of people who are on the verge of losing their job or have lost their job, and they’re trying to understand how to get by.”

Played by Page Byers on the Interplayers stage, Margie becomes desperate enough that she seeks out her high school boyfriend Mike (Michael Patten), a successful doctor living in the affluent Chestnut Hill neighborhood. Margie’s sudden reappearance in Mike’s life serves dual purposes: Not only is she hoping that Mike can get her a job, but she plans to reveal that he might be the father of her mentally challenged adult daughter.

What follows is a sincere yet darkly comic character study about class and culture, as Abaire sharply juxtaposes the hardscrabble conditions of Margie with the affluence of Mike and his new wife, Kate (Kaila Towers), a much younger African-American woman. “(Margie) continues to connect on this deep level with the people who are important to her, and she’s fiercely antagonistic to the people that aren’t,” Bentz said. “She’s exactly who you’d want in your corner. There’s this huge strand of fierce loyalty that runs through the play.”

Bentz, who graduated from Gonzaga University and is the GU law school chaplain, has an extensive theatrical background and has worked everywhere from Seattle to New York. This is his first production for Interplayers, and he said the play’s depiction of economic hierarchy connected with him on a deeply personal level.

“I came from a very simple background and then went to a private college, and trying to understand how to reconnect with where I’m from is a constant challenge,” Bentz said. “And I think I’ve been all over the map about that, as a lot of us are who change social areas in our life. That really spoke to me.”

It’s the characters, though – the titular “good people” – that keep Abaire’s drama grounded in reality, and Bentz hopes that audiences remember and relate with Margie after the lights come up.

“I want them to have an experience of universality about other people’s struggles,” Bentz said. “When I started working on this play, I’d be walking by people on the street and remember the reality that they, too, have rich stories. People will see themselves in these characters. Everyone has a struggle, and that’s just normal.”

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