The Nanaimo Theatre Group is wrapping up its 2017-18 season with a play that takes a frank peek into the lives of those who persevere in the face of discouraging odds.
The company is staging Good People, by David Lindsay-Abaire, an American playwright whose writing credits include, among others, the Tony Award-nominated book and the lyrics for Shrek the Musical. Good People follows Margie, a recently laid-off middle-aged woman living in south Boston, also called “Southie,” as she struggles to find a job, provide for her special-needs adult daughter and generally make ends meet.
Actress Frances McDormand won a Tony for the role in 2011, so when it came to choosing a play to bring to the Bailey Studio, director Sheila Bowman took a look at Good People and said, “If it’s good enough for Frances, it’s good enough for me.”
“I am only interested in directing plays that have a really meaty script,” Bowman said.
There is certainly a lot to chew on in Good People, with the play touching on issues like class, race and economic hardship. Despite the weight of these subjects, Bowman said the playwright has made the story “palatable, unless people can’t stand swearing” by adding humour and warmth in the form of Margie’s friends.
Bowman said the characters are one of Good People’s strengths.
“It’s about really real people. There’s just no fluff in it at all … and it’s incredibly well written. The writing is so real you feel like you’re eavesdropping,” Bowman said of the play.
She described the play’s setting as a “huge, unexplained character.” While researching South Boston, Bowman read about its history of high unemployment, low school enrolment and the prevalence of single-mother households. She said this unspoken background makes it even more impressive when Margie learns an old boyfriend became a doctor and moved to an affluent suburb.
Bowman said the idea that it is possible to overcome difficulties and leap socio-economic barriers leaves the taste of hope in one’s mouth.
“It’s just an affirmation that we are always hopeful that things will get better…” she said.
“It sounds so trite to say ‘Life’s a struggle.’ Yes, it is, but that is what it’s about. We just press on, you just lean into it, keep going. That’s all you can do.”
WHAT’S ON … The Nanaimo Theatre Group production of Good People comes to the Bailey Studio from April 18 to 21, 25 to 28 and May 2 to 5 at 8 p.m. and April 22 and 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20, available at 250-758-7224 or online.