A set of lies ends up stripped away by the end of David Lindsay-Abaire's 2011 drama Good People. Under Tony Lea's discerning direction, this uncomfortably close-up study in cultural plate tectonics places two middle-aged Southies—a man and a woman who grew up as friends through hardscrabble childhoods in the infamous south side of Boston—on different sides of the class divide in the present day.
Mike (Mark Filiaci) is the one who appears to have gotten away unscathed from the coarseness, the crushing poverty and the violence of the old neighborhood as a successful endocrinologist with a requisite mansion, an intellectual wife and child.
Margie (Helen Hagan) didn't. In the first scene, she's being fired from a cashier's job at a neighborhood dollar store by a manager she knew as a neighborhood kid (a solid Brian Fisher). In the second, it becomes clear, as she commiserates with old friend Jean (a flawless Page Purgar) and her peppery landlord Dottie (a rewarding Sharlene Thomas), just how quickly Margie is running out of options for herself and her brain-damaged adult daughter.
A chance meeting sets Margie in Mike's office—and then his home—in a desperate search for a job. She tries to convince herself that she might have wound up on the other side of the poverty line, just as Mike assures himself that he never could have. Since Margie's approach to the less-than-gentle art of verbal self-defense involves a formidable offense, inevitably the gloves come off. When they do, the factors dividing the two grow narrower and narrower.
Rasool Jahan adds to the blue-chip cast assembled here with her grounded work as Mike's wife, Kate, in a production that takes on some of privilege's most cherished assumptions as it asks who—and what—a good person actually is.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Guiding lies."