How much of our life is determined by our own choices and how much is blind luck? Had we made a different choice at some critical juncture in our lives, how might it have changed everything? Are decent, ethical people only decent when being so poses no threat to their lifestyle or wellbeing? Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire returns to his South Boston roots to explore these and other questions in Good People, the play now on the main stage of the Alliance Theatre.
Despite the serious philosophical exploration, Good People has some very funny moments as the audience becomes acquainted with some of the residents of South Boston, an area with a culture—even a language pattern—all its own. “Southies” struggle to either escape the hardships of economically depressed South Boston or try to make the best of it, often turning to one another for the resources to get through another day. The popular weekly bingo games are not just an inexpensive source of amusement; they’re also a try at winning a few dollars to ease the strain of getting through another week.
Winning at bingo is pure luck, but some characters seem to feel that the difference between staying in poverty and pulling oneself up into an affluent lifestyle also is largely a matter of luck. Others argue that through hard work and good choices people make their own luck.
South Boston resident Margie (pronounced with a hard “g”) Walsh is already living a hand-to-mouth existence, working at a low-paying job and caring for a disabled adult daughter, when she loses her job and is close to being thrown out of her humble apartment. She happens to hear that Mike, an old high school boyfriend, in spite of coming from the same impoverished neighborhood, is living an upper-middle class life as a successful doctor.
Margie desperately needs money; Mike wants to hang on to the affluent existence he has painstakingly built. Each is challenged as to how much he or she is willing to compromise honesty and ethics to meet these needs.
Susan V. Booth, Alliance Theatre Jennings Hertz artistic director, commented in a media release about the play, “You’re guaranteed to find yourself in conversation with someone who saw it differently, and that kind of debate is how we reveal ourselves to one another.”
A wonderful cast, headed by Kate Buddeke, making her Alliance Theatre debut as Margie, make it easy to become emotionally invested in these people who each find their own way of dealing with the hard-luck lives they were born into. Returning to the Alliance Stage is Brenda Bynum as Dottie, Margie’s foul-mouthed, bingo-playing landlady. The cast also includes Atlanta actors Andrew Benator as Stevie, the store manager who wants to help his neighbors even though he’s barely hanging on financially himself; LaLa Cochran as Margie’s friend Jean; Los Angeles-based actor Thomas Vincent Kelly as Mike, and Kristen Ariza as Mike’s wife Kate.
Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The Alliance Theatre is located in the Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta.