By Dee Jae Cox
I feel like life is much greater than a hero or a villain; there’s good people that sometimes make mistakes. —– Peter Dinklage
Verisimilitude, is a favorite word of mine. It means the appearance of being true or real. It was a word that resonated and stuck with me when I began writing for theatre. Does this character, this story, this stage presentation ring true? Is it believable whether in the context of reality or fantasy? I have seen few plays that portrayed more verisimilitude than David Lindsay-Abaire’s, “Good People,” currently in production at Coachella Valley Repertory.
From curtain up until curtain down, Lindsay-Abaire’s script is packed with witty, funny, sad, insightful, dramatic, heartbreaking and honest dialogue. The authenticity of these characters resonated so profoundly that I found myself thinking that they could have been neighbors of mine growing up in Cleveland. Just like Chicago or New York or Boston, the setting for “Good People,” in most cities across America you will find those living on the wrong side of the tracks, struggling to find a way out, or accepting their fate and settling in for the long haul. Whether dreams deferred or dreams achieved, is it really just about the choices we make? Or does it all come down to lucky breaks and interventions at just the right moment in our lives?
“Good People,” tells the story of Margie, (Reamy Hall,) a ‘Southie,’ as those from the South side of Boston refer to themselves as. A night at the Bingo Hall is the highlight of the week and everyone is just trying to figure out how to pay the rent and buy groceries at the same time.
As a pregnant High School teen dropout, Margie’s life took an irrevocable path that led her to her current predicament of being fired from another low paying job and wondering how she’s going to care for herself and her disabled adult child.
Her young boss, Stevie, (Erik Odom,) the manager of the dollar store where they both work, is a nice guy who agonizes over his duty to fire her for repeated tardiness, regardless of her reasons.
Hall’s slice of life performance is mesmerizing and as raw and real as it gets. She keeps the audience riveted and engaged from the first desperate plea to keep her job to her last effort to maintain dignity at the Bingo Hall.
Once upon a time, Margie, had a high school summer romance with Mike, (Michael Matthys,) who made his way out of the projects and is now a Doctor. Mike left town at a critical time for Margie, but in her desperation to find work she approaches her old flame for help. Long held secrets and resentments flare up when Margie and Mike confront their past. Each remembering things just a little differently and asking the crucial question, is life about the choices we make or the breaks we catch?
Matthys, wonderful portrayal of Mike, introduces us to a guy who made it out, but gives no acknowledgement to anyone but himself for his success. Mike isn’t very likable, but he is forthright in his approach to his life, and Matthys is truly authentic in his performance. Mike’s young wife, Kate, (Nadege August,) is beautiful, educated and successful. Not exactly how Margie sees herself and the resentment shows beneath the ‘good person’ façade that she wears like a badge of honor. August, is so sincere and relatable in her portrayal of a legitimately nice person who must dig deep to keep the ugliness from destroying her life and her marriage.
Dottie, (Barbara Gruen,) and Jean, (Candy Milo,) are so spot on perfect in their characterizations of Marge’s friends who try to encourage her, while showcasing the flaws that make them so real. These two had me laughing out loud every time they were on stage and created a wonderful soft blunting around the naked edges of this drama.
Michael Matthews, direction takes this script to the next level of wonderful. The seamless blocking utilizes the space and keeps the action flowing between scenes like a choreographed ballet. Jimmy Cuomo, long admired as a favorite set designer, uses his talent and design skill to create a set that is authentic and fluid. Sliding walls and revolving sets flawlessly move the action from one scene to another. Moira Wilkie Whitaker’s lighting design, Rebecca Kessin’s sound and Chandler Smith’s costumes round out the professional quality and presentation of this production.
I can’t recommend this show strongly enough. It will make you think and feel and above all, the Verisimilitude, will resonate long after the curtain comes down.
“Good People,” is running through May 19th at CV Rep’s new location, 68510 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City.
For Information on upcoming shows: call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org
Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. www.losangeleswomenstheatreproject.org and www.palmspringstheatre.com
PHOTOS BY JIM COX