In an impoverished South Boston neighborhood, living paycheck to paycheck, Margaret loses her job, prompting a furious quest to find employment. This is the set-up of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People,” which opened a three weekend run last Friday at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater. In the play, Margaret’s unfiltered commentary is often harsh and sometime duplicitous, formed by a reality where it is normal to claw and struggle through life.
In one powerful speech, Margaret (Sarah McKereghan) rants against the accusation that her choices caused the poverty she is trapped in, passionately listing the chain reaction caused by having no capital to draw on, leading to an endless cycle of poverty — unless exterior opportunities break through.
Playwright Lindsay-Abaire’s detailed portraits of “Southies” are not the gangsters or criminals we often see in dramas about Boston. In “Good People,” they are, indeed, good, ordinary people — stamping bingo cards while gossiping, or gathering in the kitchen for coffee and a laugh. The acting ensemble, under dialect coach Kate Brickley (also a member of the cast), recreates the signature accent with few slips and natural ease.
Director Michael Fontaine has clearly studied the structure of the play, giving meticulous instruction re-garding shifting intentions of the characters. In one scene, Margaret clasps her purse, shoulders slumped protectively when she enters the action, based on false pretenses, and drops the bag to sit confidently as power shifts toward her side.
Exemplary actors Liz Jahren (Jean) and Kate Brickley (Dottie) form Margaret’s bulwark of friends. Slouching her way through vulgar quips, Jean encourages a series of terrible ideas for finding a job, in-sisting that Margaret ask for employment from an ex-boyfriend who has not seen her in years. Dottie, pragmatic and fiercely protective of her hobby crafting googly eyed styrofoam rabbits, insists that Mar-garet needs to find a way to pay her rent.
Costume designer Ellen Howes enjoys a nod to the character’s idiosyncrasies, giving Dottie a pastel sweater covered in embroidered Easter eggs.
Margaret’s desperation to find employment is fueled by a desire to provide for her developmentally dis-abled daughter. Partnering with Alchemia Gallery on Kentucky Street, the Cinnabar lobby features lively, expressive paintings that support creativity of individuals with disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy. In her day job, cast member Jahren works with clients to share experiences and stories, giving them a voice in society through the arts.
Having successfully escaped the poverty of his childhood, Mike (Nick Sholley) — the former boyfriend — is now comfortably situated in his Chestnut Hill estate when Margaret arrives to shake up his paradise with unwelcome demands. Their passive-aggressive posturing leads to an awkward invitation to his home, through Margaret’s skillful maneuvering and “lace curtain Irish” accusations guilting him into cooperating. Wayne Hovey’s clever set design of sliding panels transitions between disparate locations, from a mud splattered brick alley to Mike’s minimalist chic living room, where Kate (Liz Rogers-Beckley) wel-comes the unexpected intruder with openhearted sincerity.
Comedic exchanges occur through everyday situations, such as Mike’s disparaging remarks about a cheese platter resembling a “wedge of moldy basement,” and Dottie’s horror when Stevie (Caleb Noal) refuses to purchase a gaudy rabbit decoration for his apartment. The flowing humor stutters to a halt with a recurring theme of casual racism, called out by other characters in a lackadaisical manner, as if they are in on the joke. Margaret’s insistence that she is not racist, while constantly demonstrating otherwise, is chilling in the current political climate.
What: A comedy-drama by award-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire.
Where: Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N.
When: ‘Good People’ runs weekends through Feb. 18. Show times 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Admission: Tickets are $28 general ($35 at the door); $25 senior ($30 at the door); $20 under 30 and mili-tary ($25 at the door); $15 youth under 18 ($20 at the door); $55 VIP (includes reserved seating, a glass of wine and choice of dessert).
Information: For tickets and information call (707) 763-8920 (Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.) or visit Cin-nabarTheater.org.