|L - R Scott Facher, Alison Blanchard, Charlotte Willimas Roberts photos by Eric Keitel |
by Joe Straw
I had the opportunity to direct Israel Horovitz’s Line a one-act play about five people waiting in line for an event. For the first rehearsal I drew a line on the stage, simple enough, a small line the actors were to stand behind while waiting. The first actor took his position on one end of the line and would not stand behind it, the second actor stood behind the line giving enough room for the first actor to jump in when he came to his senses, and the third actor ranted and raved his dialogue throwing other actors out of line in a style of acting incomprehensible to any thespian on the face of the planet. There wasn’t a second rehearsal. They were not bad actors, but I wondered if they were good people. - Narrator
That’s the thing these days, protocol about the way you want to do the best thing to people you want to do the worst to. And it comes as no surprise to anyone, how far one is willing to go to demean another person in that act.
So, here we find ourselves in an alleyway among the imagined smell of garbage, urine, and who knows what else. It is an act in the worst possible place to do the worst possible thing that one can do to another human being and that is to fire someone from their low paying job.
Theatre Forty presents Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire directed by Ann Hearn Tobolowsky and produced by David Hunt Stafford through January 9, 2022.
Margaret (Alison Blanchard) doesn’t like it and she wants to avoid the discussion at all costs. But Stevie (Michael Kerr) is having no part of her story or excuses of being late. It is inevitable this job must be done and done is done in this South Boston Massachusetts Dollar Store.
And, Margaret knows she is at the end of her rope so she starts regaling the stories of Stevie’s mother and the Flanagan’s turkey she tried to steal. Old justice is no justice. And just for good measure she tells him about his father who was locked up in Walpole at that time.
(Interesting note: Walpoling is the conscious decision to irk the living crap out of everyone around you by constantly pointing out the one thing that separates you from them, to point out that in one tiny area you are a have, rather than a have not. - Urban Dictionary)
And no matter what excuses Margaret gives about her daughter Joyce (not seen) with mental problems, and other workers who are late as well. The worst part of it all is that they (her co-workers) accuse him of being gay. But, you know, brush that aside, it’s not about him but the district manager and so the deed is done.
Stevie tells Margaret that his brother works at Gillette and that he will ask if there is an opening for her.
The next morning Margaret, Dottie (Mariko Van Kampen) leafing though newspaper flyers, and Jean (Suzan Solomon) are now engaging in instant coffee talk about what happened to Margaret the previous day. Dottie says her son Russell (not seen) is having hard times and might need a place to stay and if Margaret cannot make the rent, she might have to move out to make way for her son. She can lay her lot with other homeless people on the streets some of which she knows.
Margaret now believes she is going to be the next Cookie McDermott, a homeless woman they went to school with sending her thoughts and actions into a self-preservation mode.
Jean then accuses Dottie of helping Margaret lose her job. If she had shown up in time Margaret wouldn’t have been late. Some friend.
Jean tells Margaret that he should hit up her old flame Mikey Dillon (Scott Facher). She saw him at a luncheon at the hotel for a Boys and Girls Club event. Maybe he can give her a job.
Jean: Ask him what he’s got available. Southie pride, right? Maybe he’ll cut ya a break.
So, after many calls Margaret shows up at Mike’s office. Mike is now a doctor, a reproductive endocrinologist. Those are highfalutin words for Margaret.
Margaret: I only went to Southie High after all. You can’t be using those five-dollar words on me.
Margie (with a hard g) overstays her welcome in that office pushing for something that she desperately needs, a job, but knowing all the while that she holds the master card should she, or, when she decides to use it.
David Lindsay-Abaire’s play is exceptional and has a lot of biting moments that cut deep into each character’s psyche whether the characters acknowledge it or not. Everyone knows each other’s business, their history, so when the blades of retribution strike they strike deep sending everyone into timorous desperation. And desperation is a key element here. Not having a job means not paying the rent to the slumlord. The slumlord goes into overdrive thinking of finding a new tenant, etc. which leads everyone on the edge in this poverty stricken South Boston setting all fighting for scraps by playing bingo in the church basement to win some money or to sell some ridiculous bunny pottery.
Ann Hearn Tobolowsky’s direction is also exceptional capturing the uncomfortable moments when characters overstay their welcome. The characters glide, the moments are genuine, and the play moves with remarkable precision. The relationship with Joyce needs work mostly the onstage characters interaction with an offstage character. Still, this was a joy to watch.
|L - R Mariko Van Kampen, Suzan Solomon, Alison Blanchard, and Michael Kerr|
It is the killer smile Alison Blanchard uses as Margie when she makes her point that digs, a half smile scrunched up nose that places her counterpart at ill ease. But, can you blame her? She is fighting for her life. But she is not evil and she is willing to let anyone off the hook should the battle become too tenuous for her opponent. Blanchard is perfect in this role.
Scott Facher as Mike is immediately uncomfortable by the presence of Margie and stays at a heightened sense of alert throughout. The wrong word said at the wrong time incriminates him and he is not willing to have that conversation, ever. And, honestly, things are not going well in his marriage possibly because he is not honest about his past. Facher is terrific in the role.
Michael Kerr as Stevie presents a pleasant demeanor that is unaffected by the injustices around him. He does what he is told and rarely gets angry from flying accusations. With the chaos around him it is pleasant to know there is someone present with an even keel to smooth out the edges of injustice. One is not completely sure where this defined character is going but it was an enjoyable performance.
Suzan Solomon plays Jean as a woman who knows everything
about everyone’s business. She is quick
to defend her friend and throws might to right and she calls justice where
justice needs to be served. Unfortunately, she is in the same predicament as
the rest of her friends living in South Boston and one financial step from
losing everything. And, her performance was wonderful.
Mariko Van Kampen is Jean the unreliable upstairs landlord and part time caretaker of Joyce at fifty dollars a week. She is at fault for not showing up on time but doesn’t want to take fault. She likes to blame others for her inconsistencies. Along with the cute bunnies was a very cute performance.
Charlotte Williams Roberts is impressive as Kate. Under her pleasant demeanor is a woman searching for the truth and that is from her husband who is not totally honest with her. Yes, they are having problems but she is willing to work on those problems until everything is settled. But, on the flip side she is willing to defend her husband at every opportunity. But, she is open-minded about correcting her husband’s past.
Jeff G. Rack’s set design is functional although lacking in kitchen, church basement, and alleyway scene. A little creative symbolism goes a long way here.
The setting takes place in 2009 and Costume Designer Michèle Young’s work was impressive.
Alternates who did not perform the night I was there are Milda Dacys (Dottie) and Sherrie Scott (Jean).
Other members of the crew are as follows:
Derrick McDaniel – Lighting Designer
Nick Foran – Sound Designer
Ernest McDaniel – Stage Manager
Run! Run! Run! Take someone who is unemployed.
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