Sunday, May 1, 2011

In 'Good People,' Past Intrudes on Swell Life

Frances McDormand as Margaret Walsh and Tate Donovan as Mike Dillon are old sweethearts in "Good People. Photos by Joan Marcus.


good people” doesn’t so much refer to the decency of the complimented as it suggests, “he’s one of us.”

The titular “Good People” in David Lindsay-Abaire’s new play in an extended run through 29 May at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre is Dr. Mike Dillon (Tate Donovan). He is a success story from the poor South Boston neighborhood.

Mike Dillon left “Southie” to go to college. He has returned to Boston not only as a doctor, but to a house in the fancy, affluent Chestnut Hill section of the city. The good people he has left behind in the old neighborhood lead hardscrabble lives. Among them are Margaret Walsh (Frances McDormand), an ex-girlfriend, and her friend Jean (Becky Ann Baker).

These folks may have remained a part of Mike’s past had desperation and Jean’s advice not literally drove Margaret to his door. Mike is wary when Margaret forces her way into his office in response to his unreturned telephone calls. During the confrontation, Margaret calls him a “lace curtain” impulsively prompting Mike to invite her to a party at his house. (See videos at

Mike (Tate Donovan) and Kate (Renee Elise Goldberry), his trophy wife in "Good People."

The party is cancelled, however, when Mike’s daughter becomes sick. Believing she’s been “dis-invited,” Margaret shows up anyway. Her encounter with Mike and his wife, Kate (Renee Elise Goldberry), does not go well.

“Good People” is an affecting, heartfelt and diverting play about remembering where you came from, and caring about the people you let go and the ones you left behind. There is humor in “Good People” but this is a serious tale about class and conscience. These good people are all genuine; it feels as though one were living with them.

Margaret (Frances McDormand) and Kate (Renee Elise Goldberry) are two very differnt women who love or have loved the same man in "Good People."

The cast of "Good People" is exceptional. Estelle Parsons, in a small role as Dottie, Margaret’s money-hungry and un-empathetic landlady, is very amusing. FMcD is utterly believable as the uneducated and down-on-her-luck Margaret. It’s clear in the actor’s performance that Margaret’s good heart is leading her to places she really doesn’t like to go.

TD plays a Mike who feels entitled to his luck with a slippery ease. REG as the generous, polished, well-educated and smart Kate is extremely charming. The standout is BAB as straight-talking Jean.

Visit to learn more about “Good People.”

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