Playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire
had been intending to write about his old neighborhood for a long time, but he
never felt he was mature enough -- as a writer or as a person -- to take on the challenge. For him, the "old neighborhood" is South Boston, affectionately
known as "Southie." It's traditionally known as a predominantly Irish-American,
working-class neighborhood, though the neighborhood is evolving and its
demographics are rapidly changing.
His goal was to write about the issue of class without whipping out his
soapbox and preaching to his audience, while at the same time banishing the
stereotypes of drunks and mobsters that still plague the neighborhood -- to write
about the "salt of the earth people" he knew growing up. The result is Good People, a play rich with nuanced
characters, tough questions and sharp Southie slang.
Good People challenges the idea of an objectively "good" person, and makes viewers reconsider their preconceptions.
In Good People, single mother
Margie Walsh is struggling to care for her handicapped adult daughter after
losing her job. In dire straits and hoping for help finding employment, Margie
contacts an old boyfriend originally from Southie who has since become a
successful doctor. In the ensuing fallout, one is left to wonder whether it is
hard work or just plain good luck that decides a person's fate, and what, if
anything, constitutes a good person.
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Constance Macy, Peggy Cosgrave and Dee Pelletier are all featured in Good People.
Lindsay-Abaire expands on this concept,
explaining, "When the play starts, all of the characters define themselves as
good people, and they have different definitions about what that means, and for
everyone watching the play or reading the script, the definition of what a good
person is differs from person to person as well. Then, in the course of writing
the play, [I discovered] the characters living through the play have to
reassess what it means to be a good person, and we realize that that phrase is
a very malleable thing."
Happily for Indianapolis, Good People
premieres at the Indiana Repertory Theatre on Jan. 7, directed by Mark Cuddy.
The cast includes Constance Macy as Margie, as well as Nick Abeel,
Peggy Cosgrave, Dee Pelletier, Sean Patrick Reilly, and Nicole Lewis. IRT associate
Cat Cardwell notes that the play was chosen for this season "not only because
it is excellent work, but because it creates so many memorable impressions that
will keep us debating long after the show is over."
She continues, "We make theater for a variety of reasons: sometimes to
entertain, sometimes to question, sometimes to affirm. This play does all of
these things. It takes us on a roller coaster ride of human experience that can
only happen in live theater."
Plus, Lindsay-Abaire has managed to do the
enviable: tackle hefty social issues and big questions while still keeping the
jokes rolling. He admits that his humor is "very
Southie -- dark and inappropriate." He says that it comes from "those people
in the neighborhood that would process their hardships with humor."
Constance Macy plays Good People's lead -- a single mother from the south side of Boston, named Margie.
Lindsay-Abaire, who himself straddled the class
divide when he attended a suburban private school as a child, does it again now
as he deftly writes about the clash between those who left Southie behind for
bigger and better things and those who remained behind. South Boston residents
have praised the play for its honesty, but the play's accessibility isn't
limited only to one neighborhood. People from Seattle, North Dakota and beyond
have approached Lindsay-Abaire to tell him how deeply
relatable and familiar they found his characters.
"That was the mosty gratifying thing," he said. "It
made me breathe this huge sigh of relief that, yes, I've put my people
up on stage, but they were other people's people, too. Take the accent away,
and they belong to other people."
We're guessing Indianapolis residents will feel exactly the same way.
Emily is happiest when she's knee-deep in the written word. She is wholeheartedly nursing her fledgling freelance writing career and is delighted to be on this side of the pen. Emily shares her living space with a bossy Dalmatian and many, many books.