Oscar E Moore

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GOOD PEOPLE starring Frances McDormand at Manhattan Theatre Club

March 8th, 2011 by Oscar E Moore

From the moment Frances McDormand (Margie) speaks in David Lindsay-Abaire’s tragic-comedy GOOD PEOPLE now at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre you know she’s a no nonsense talker – with a South Boston accent – a blue collar worker, a woman with a wise crack for every occasion with low self esteem, a woman who feels uncomfortable in most any situation and who has a chip on her shoulder, and is desperate.  And ready to fight back.

She needs a job – being that she has been just fired for being late over and over again from her Dollar Store job by Stevie (Patrick Carroll) who is afraid to be fired for not firing her.  A man who loves Bingo (does that mean he’s gay?) and whose unseen mother plays the part of a pivotal running joke – as does he.

Drama or melodrama?  Do these characters make sense or not?   Do we care or who cares?  If you are a Bingo addict or care for hand crafted rabbits GOOD PEOPLE might be for you.  I don’t mean to be glib but there are a lot of holes here and they are not dug by rabbits.  Mr. Lindsay-Abaire is responsible for those.

Margie has a daughter who is not normal.  She was born “premature” and Margie has a tough time paying the rent to her landlady Dottie (an eccentric, lovable Estelle Parsons) and finding someone to tend her child (an equally odd Renee Elise Goldsberry) who suggests that she look up her old flame Mike (a perfectly acceptable Tate Donovan) who has become a successful Doctor (was it pure luck?) and has recently moved back to the hood in the hope that he can find her employment instead of settling for employment at Gillette.  If only she just took the job at Gillette.

In any event she doesn’t and pursues Mike like a panther.  First at his office, where she has problems with the unseen receptionist and then speaks with him at length (has he no patients?) and examines the family photos – going on about how “young” and “pretty” his wife is. 

Mike is reluctant to offer her a job no matter what but is coerced into inviting her to his birthday party that his wife is planning which is cancelled which Margie doesn’t believe and that leads us into Act II.

They grew up together and he moved forward and she didn’t.  They were an item.  Is she doing all this to get back at him or not? Does it shock you that the all too accepting and sensible wife (Becky Ann Baker) is the daughter of a successful Afro-American?  Will Margie spill the beans about the true nature of Mike?  Will the one glass of wine escalate into a game of truth?  Will Margie break the insured vase?  Whose premature baby is it anyway?

I was disappointed to say the least with this production guided by Dan Sullivan.  The various sets by John Lee Beatty have you asking more questions.  How are these set changes done so quickly?   It seems they want to wow you with the visuals and not with the words (that sometimes Ms. McDormand trips over).  Words that are sometimes funny, sometimes moving, sometimes woeful and sometimes contrived.

www.manhattantheatreclub.com      Photo:  Joan Marcus

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