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GOOD PEOPLE–funny and compelling at Cleveland Play House

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)


What happens when you combine a well-crafted script with an interesting story, a focused director, an excellent cast, and effective visual effects?  The results is a funny and compelling production, like GOOD PEOPLE, now on stage at the Cleveland Play House.

GOOD PEOPLE was written by David Lindsay-Abaire, who received a Pulitzer Prize for the play RABBIT HOLE.   He also was awarded the Ed Leban Award as America’s most promising musical theatre lyricist.  Among his creations is SHREK THE MUSICAL, which will be getting a Cleveland production this summer at Mercury SummerTheatre.  GOOD PEOPLE received two Tony nominations for its 2011 101 performance run which featured Frances McDormand, Tate Donovan, and Estelle Parsons.

There are many stories about cell phones in the theatre, but one of the legends actually took place during the final night of the GOOD PEOPLE run.  An audience member’s cell phone rang, the phone’s owner shrieked, then answered the phone.  The VILLAGE VOICE reviewer reported, “McDormand stopped in her tracks, put her arm around co-star Renee Elise Goldsbery, and deadpanned, ‘Let’s wait.”  After the woman finished her call, McDormand made a rewind gesture and said to Goldberry, ‘OK, ask me the question again’ and they resumed the scene.”

The comedy centers on Margie Walsh, a sharp-tongued product of Irish-Catholic South Boston, a working class neighborhood where most people live from paycheck to paycheck and where a night on the town is a few rounds of bingo, which might supplement their income.  Margie, who has an intellectually limited adult daughter, loses her minimum wage job at the local dollar store because of her constant lateness.  Desperate for money, she seeks out her old flame, Donovan, now a successful infertility doctor.  Donovan is one of the few who escaped the projects and the humdrum Southie life.  She goes to his office, wrangles an invitation to his birthday party at his palatial house where she hopes to locate someone who has a job for her.  A series of plot twists leads to humor, pathos, awareness, and a surprise ending.

Under the well honed direction of Laura Kepley, the CPH production is excellent.  The comic and dramatic timing is on target.  The acting of the high quality.

Kate Hodge walks the fine line between comedy and tragedy with fidelity.  She has the right Southie attitude and sound, never feigning Margaret, but being Margaret.  Denny Dillon is delightful as Margaret’s landlady and ditzy upstairs neighbor.  She has a mobile face, a bird-like voice and a great touch with exaggerated comedy.

David Andrew Macdonald, effectively develops the role of Mike, the Southie who went to college and became a “lace curtain Irishman.”  He’s divorced himself from his background by losing his accent and creating an illusion of who he was and where he came from.  When he gets angry, the accent returns as does his rough underbelly.

Elizabeth Rich as Margaret’s long time friend, is spot on.  Patrick Halley, as the nebbish dollar store manager and Zoey Martinson, as Mike’s wife, develop clear characterizations.

Mimi Lien’s scenic design, Jessica Pabst’s costumes, Michael Lincoln’s lighting, all enhance the production.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: CPH’s GOOD PEOPLE is one of those special evenings of theatre that combines a well-written script,  excellent direction, and fine acting into an evening of humor and pathos to create a must-see production.  

GOOD PEOPLE runs through April 14, 2013 at the Allen Theatre.  For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to