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Theater Review: "Good People"

Heidi Bridges (Margie), Susan Clausen (Jean), Kathi Copeland (Dottie)
Photo credit:
Ken Jacques

Remember that old shibboleth that anybody can succeed if they work hard enough? Tell that to Margaret (Heidi Bridges). Margie is about 50, undereducated and a cashier at the Dollar Store in the Southie projects of Boston, and she’s about to get fired for excessive tardiness.

It’s not that she’s a slacker. Margie has to arrange care for her mentally challenged adult daughter Joyce every day. Landlady Dottie (Kathi Copeland), a retiree with a casual relationship to time, is entrusted with most of Joyce’s care, and there’s the rub: Dottie is frequently late, making Margie late for work.

Dottie’s excuse is that she’s tired from spending evenings making rabbit figurines by “gluing Styrofoam balls onto flowerpots,” which she actually sells for $5 apiece. 

Scripps Ranch Theatre and Director Eric Poppick present a crackling production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People” through Feb. 26.

Dottie, Margie and their waitress friend Jean (Susan Clausen, in a terrific performance as the “mouthy from Southie”) spend much of their free time playing bingo once a week. Poor Margie doesn’t even win there.

Financial desperation drives Margie to visit former high school classmate and onetime summer boyfriend Mike (Ted Leib), who made it out of the projects via medical school and now lives with his wife Kate (Alexandra Slade) and family in the leafy Chestnut Hill area. 

But Margie’s hopes that he will have a job for her are dashed immediately.

He’s not exactly pleased when she calls him “lace-curtain Irish” either, but the fact is that he is eager to leave his Southie past (including Margie) buried.

When Mike lets it slip that his wife is planning a birthday party for him, Margie wangles an invitation, rescinded when Mike calls to tell her the party’s off because of his daughter’s illness.

Margie assumes the worst – that the party is on but Mike doesn’t want her there – and makes a bad decision to show up anyway, leading to an awkward situation  that becomes a confrontation.

Bridges embodies all Margie’s good intentions – along with the longing, ache and anger.

She makes it impossible not to empathize with her, for all her poor choices, misplaced fury and the tendency to pile one unendearing act on top of another. She’s also got that Southie accent down.

The versatile Kathi Copeland, recently seen as a gorilla in InnerMission’s production of “Precious Little,” is a stitch as Dottie the landlady, “good people” if not punctual, and hilarious in her pursuit of “art.”

Leib’s Mike paints a solid portrait of the escapee from the projects, doing as much with face as words – especially in the painful scene at home when Margie barges in uninvited.

Clausen is a hoot as Jean, always thinking of ways to work the angles.

Kenny Bordieri gives a fine reading of Stevie, who makes the most of his major scene.

Alexandra Slade is convincing as Mike’s wife, a literature professor at BU, the innocent catalyst whose innocent of mistake of asking Margie for tales of Mike’s past kicks off the confrontation.

We’d all like to think we’re “good people.” Lindsay-Abaire asks us to consider what might push us over the line the other way.

The playwright has written better plays (like the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Rabbit Hole”), but bravo to Scripps Ranch for making this play seem better than I’ve ever thought it was. 

The details

“Good People” plays through February 26, 2017 at the Legler Benbough Theatre, 9783 Avenue of Nations, off Pomerado Road in Scripps Ranch.

Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets: (858) 578-7728 or www.scrippsranchtheatre.org