Gamm’s “Good People” Nothing Less Than Sizzling

Nov 20, 2013

Bill Mootos and Jeanine Kane in Gamm Theatre's "Good People."
Credit Peter Goldberg

Well, I don’t want to go overboard here. But “Good People” is just nothing less than a sizzling comedy with a real life message. It’s delicious, deep, delightful, and just plain dandy.

Directed with fire and feeling by Rachel Walshe, the production will have you laughing out loud and holding your breath as the characters reveal themselves.

Led by a splendid Janine Kane, the acting is as good as you’re liable to see anywhere. The sets and the goofy, great costumes add a lot, too.

The playwright is David Lindsay-Abaire, a Pulitzer Prize winner for “Rabbit Hole” a play about coping with the sudden death of a child.  With “Good People” he has done what fiction writers are often told to do: “Write about what you know.”

That means getting into his boyhood in the hardscrabble Boston neighborhood of Southie. It also reaches to ideas of class, of the ability to seize opportunity when you see it. And if you can’t see it, well, that’s in “Good People,” too.

Lindsay-Abaire grew up in Southie, the son of working class (hard working, that is) parents. He managed to rise because of a scholarship at age 12 to a leading Massachusetts prep school. But he also remembers his buddies who never left, never rose. And that’s where “Good People” begins, and ends.

We look in on Margaret, called Margie by one and all. She’s the Southie kid who stayed behind, who remained true to the ethic and myths of her hometown. And who has lived to regret it.

Enter Mike, the guy who got away, who become a doctor, who now lives in upscale Chestnut Hill outside Boston. He’s pretty smug about his rise, at least until Margie, his one-time Southie girlfriend, shows up, again.

Here’s where the troubles, the complications, the memories begin to take down both people. In this conflict, “Good People” is absolutely hilarious. And absolutely terrifying. Two people, various memories, and great personal dismay follow.

Janine Kane as Margie is completely compelling. One moment you are laughing along with raucous jokes; the next you are raked by her eyes as Margie realizes just how badly things have gone. It’s a terrific performance, goofy funny and gut- wrenching in turn.

Boston-based actor Bill Mootos plays Mike with smooth grace, at least until things start to go wrong. Then his doctor is undone, powerfully and with real truth.

The supporting cast is super. Margaret Melozzi and Casey Seymour Kim join up with Kane. They prance around not a fire but bingo cards. They could be called the three witches of Southie if they weren’t so darn much fun, so goofy, and sad, and likeable all at once. Trinity Rep company member, Mia Ellis, is real as the Doctor’s Wife and Marc Dante Mancini sweet as another Southie kid struggling from paycheck to paycheck.

In the end, then, playwright Lindsay-Abaire seems to be saying that while you may take the kid out of Southie, you’ll never take Southie out of the kid. It’s a cliché, but it seems very right in “Good People.”

Want To Go?

“Good People” continues at The Gamm Theatre through December 8th.

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