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Opinion: ‘Good People’ is earthy, riveting production

November 29, 2012
By SARAH REED - Special to the Weekender , The Herald-Star

Six superbly talented performers stand ready to lead you on a gritty and uninhibited journey of survival in modern-day Massachusetts as David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People" continues its run at Pittsburgh's O'Reilly Theater through Dec. 9.

The production flawlessly combines provocative subject matter with unreserved human emotion, creating a uniquely potent theatrical experience.

Discharged from her position at a dollar store located in South Boston's Lower End due to excessive tardiness, middle-aged Margaret faces extreme financial devastation if she cannot secure another job quickly. Options appear unhopeful until a girlfriend suggests that she inquire about employment possibilities via a former high school friend who was once Margaret's boyfriend - Michael, now a well-respected doctor who runs his own practice. As the two past lovers reunite, hidden secrets of earlier years unfold and questions regarding the long- ended relationship emerge, threatening to further disrupt the doctor's current marriage as well as ruin Margaret's chances of obtaining work through him.

Extreme desperation and anger surge through Kelly McAndrew's Margaret as she is affronted by the hopelessness of unfeeling persons throughout her journey, while a compelling sense of inner strength and humility are additionally markedly present. Also integral to McAndrew's performance is the dry and coarse sense of humor imbuing Margaret as she attempts to combat a great deal of her circumstances.

As David Whalen's smoothly sophisticated and well-kempt Michael is mildly teased and prodded by McAndrew's comparatively unrefined and brash Margaret, a subtle yet stirring condescension and uneasiness pervade his character. Yet when confronted with more substantial matters relating to their past relationship, a ruthless and palpable perturbation consume his behavior, the agitation manifesting in observable writhing.

Glynis Bell's Dottie, Margaret's meddlesome older friend and landlady, possesses a personality as colorful as her vibrant clothing, while Helen Coxe's sharp-tongued Jean is friskily loyal and protective of Margaret. Young Paul Terzenbach's Stevie is serious-minded though occasionally vulnerable and penetrable.

January LaVoy as Kate, the doctor's young wife, exudes a gratifying sense of independence of mind and a strong conveyance of responsibility and opinion, while also offering a genuine graciousness toward Margaret.

A hodgepodge of stationary panels depicting Boston-specific locales, such as a sign advertising Sully's Restaurant and graffiti sprawled on one of the lower panes, cleverly give reference to the flavor of the poor section of the city without the use of abundant scenery or props, while the exposure of lush green trees through several of the top panels signifies Chestnut Hill, a ritzy section of Massachusetts where Michael and Kate reside.

Though peppered with foul language that lends an authentic flare to the piece's major locality, the Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of "Good People" possesses a gripping ability to move the heart while it constantly keeps the mind engaged with Lindsay-Abaire's plainspoken and accessible characters, and ever-evolving plot.

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