Gonzaga Bulletin: ‘Good People’ and an even better show: Realities of class dynamics

Outside the Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre was a snowy Spokane, but inside was a window into South Boston.

It was opening night at the Spokane Civic Theatre for “Good People,” a play by David Lindsay-Abaire. A gritty, real exploration into class relationships, identity, luck and even a little bit of bingo.

From the action to the accents, the set and the intimacy with the audience, “Good People” is wonderfully gripping. You feel for the characters, both rooting and wincing for them. At times you laugh, gasp or lean in because the tension and dynamics are excellently crafted. You could clearly hear through the show, especially towards the end, many sharp inhales or an “ooo” escape someone’s lips. At no point in the beginning of the show could I have predicted where it was going, but I was simply happy to be along for the ride.

(L to R: Deborah Marlowe, Scarlett Hepworth, Pam Kingsley, and Rhead Shirley as Margaret, Dottie, Jean, and Steve respectively)

Walking into the theater, the thrust stage is separated into four distinct corners and the audience is nearly eye level with the actors. Before the lights went down, my eye was drawn to different corners, but when the action and character work began, I never thought twice about a lack of room.

The play opens with a single chair in the corner of the stage as, soon-to-be former dollar store cashier, Margaret (Deborah Marlowe) is getting fired by Stevie (Rhead Shirley). The accent work from Marlowe is sublime and the way she continues to get the audience to feel for Margaret throughout is extremely well done. “Good People” might be the name of the production, but not everyone here is a saint, the lines are significantly blurred.

The story tackles what it means to be a “Southie,” following characters who grew up in one of the poorest areas in South Boston. At one end you have Margaret, Jean (Scarlett Hepworth) and Dottie (Pam Kingsley), whose banter can be both hilarious and disheartening. Then you have Mike (Thor Egdell), a familiar face from Jean and Margret’s high school days who has since become a successful doctor.

(L to R: Thor Edgell, Rachae Thomas, and Deborah Marlowe as Mike, Kate, and Margaret respectively)

In search of a job, Margaret ends up at Mike’s office and the two trade questions and jabs. So much is said that isn’t said in this scene and exemplifies how this production expertly sets class dynamics and makes uncomfortable situations deeply entertaining.

I loved Egdell’s doctor voice at first; it was so calming and classic, but as soon as Margaret started to question Mike’s roots, that Southie accent crept out and added so much to the scene. In fact, the whole production has a knack for utilizing small touches that enhance the overall experience, everything down to props, the costumes and the setting.

I think this show’s most interesting quality is its ability to seem so plausible. The divides and dynamics link brilliantly with the plot, especially when Mike’s wife Kate (Rachae Thomas) comes into the fray.

My favorite scenes were when Margaret, Dottie and Jean were all chirping back and forth at each other in the bingo hall. Some of the quick conversations, even mentioning characters we will never meet, felt real. It becomes painfully apparent that good people get stuck in some bad places and are forced to make some tough choices. It all becomes grey and this production paints that vividly, and it’s incredibly enjoyable.

“Good People” will run until Feb. 4. Tickets are available at spokanecivictheatre.com.


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Article by Jack Talbott

Photos by Marlee Melinda Andrews