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REVIEW: "Good People" at George Street Playhouse

By Gary Wien

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The acclaimed play, "Good People" by David Lindsay-Abaire, opened at George Street Playhouse on February 1st with another one of the theatre's stellar casts. Dealing with the concept of the choices we make and the luck or support needed throughout one's life, the play takes a stark look at the social class structure as seen within South Boston's Lower End and Chestnut Hill regions.

This production stars Ellen McLaughlin as Margaret, Eric Riedmann as Stevie, Cynthia Lauren Tewes as Dottie, Marianne Owen as Jean, John Bolger as Mike, and Zakiya Young as Kate. George Street's Artistic Director, David Saint, directs the production. While Ellen McLaughlin gives a strong performance as Margaret, Zakiya Young (Kate, Mike's wife) and Cythia Lauren Tewes (Dottie, Margaret's landlord) steal the show.

The play opens with Margaret and Stevie (her superior at the dollar store where she worked as a cashier) meeting in an alley. Margaret, who has been consistently late for work because she can't leave her adult handicapped child alone, has run out of options, Stevie's regional manager has directed him to fire her.

Without a job and with rent money due, Margaret works hard to find anything to pay her bills, but has no luck. Her friend, Jean, mentions that she recently ran into an old friend of theirs (Mike) who is a doctor now. She tells Margaret to see if he has any job openings for her. After calling the office several times but not getting through to Mike, she decides to visit him her own. Eventually, she finds her way into his office and sees him again for the first time in 30 years.

Mike says he doesn't have any openings, but mentions his birthday party coming up. Margaret needles him enough to get an invitation to the party, believing that maybe one of Mike's doctor friends may have a job opening for her. Unfortunately, a day or two later, Mike calls to say that his daughter is sick and they've cancelled the party.

Margaret, believing that Mike was simply trying to "un-invite" her to the party, decides to go to his house anyway. When she gets there, she realizes her mistake, but Mike's wife (Kate) insists that she stay for a while. With glasses of wine flowing, Kate pries Margaret for stories about Mike's childhood as a Southie. The stories are eye-opening and lead to more and more facts revealed, arguments, and a three-way conversation that Edward Albee would have been proud of. With every moment spent in his house, Margaret becomes more and more convinced that Mike has forgotten his roots and has become "lace-curtain" -- a derogatory term meaning he thinks he's better than everyone else.

While the play was solid throughout, I left feeling a bit underwhelmed and couldn't quite figure out why. The acting was great -- perhaps even too good. Each character was entirely believable in their roles as regular people in South Boston. In fact, the play was so "realistic", it bordered on being a documentary. As I thought about it more, I realized that the realism was what left me unfulfilled with the play -- it seemed like more of a documentary than a theatrical production. Moments which could have had dramatic arcs were played out as if this was just another day in the lives of the characters. Tension which could have led to explosions on stage, merely reached the boiling level. It was almost as though the intention was to sacrifice theatrical power in favor of realism. If you love documentaries, you'll probably love this play; but if you're more of a fan of movies, you might come away feeling the way I did... wishing that the play fulfilled its promise a bit more.

The play certainly has a great history. In 2011, "Good People" was nominated for most of the major theatre awards including a Tony nomination for Best Play, and Frances McDormand took home the Tony for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Yet, I get the feeling that great performances throughout the play's history and the social issues involved with the work may somehow have led people to overlook a few rather glaring flaws -- especially the issue of Margaret's daughter. The identity of the father is built up as some sort of mystery, yet revealed in the end to be common knowledge. Since so much of Margaret's life revolves around her daughter and the true father, it's a shame that this wasn't fleshed out in a better way.

Despite its flaws, any play that inspires as much conversation as this one did between my wife and I deserves to be seen. "Good People" forces you to choose between whose side you are on and who you choose to root for. Do you root for the person who does everything in their power to leave or the person who stays behind? In the end, who you root for will probably be the person whose life most closely mirrors your own.

"Good People" is running now through February 24, 2013 at George Street Playhouse (9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ). For more information visit

Photos by by Gerry Goodstein

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Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.
Pebble Players Presents "Heathers, the Musical: High School Edition"
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- Celebrating their 10th season, Pebble Players has been entertaining Summit residents and audiences from surrounding towns with sophisticated Off-Broadway quality performances. The 2018 Season opens with "Heathers The Musical: High School Edition," directed by Jayne Myers and choreographed by Jaimie Woodruff.  Performances are Friday, November 16 and Saturday, November 17 at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 18 at 2:00pm. 
NJPAC Presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies from Thursday, March 21, 2019 - Saturday, March 23, 2019. The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, directed with dazzle by André De Shields (The Wiz). Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington, re-creates the original show’s elegant dancing and tapping as choreographer.
Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater present Teahouse by Lao She
(PRINCETON, NJ) --Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Teahouse by Lao She on November 16, 17 and 18 at 8:00pm and November 17 at 2:00pm in the Donald G. Drapkin Studio at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. Teahouse is considered a masterpiece of contemporary Chinese theater, spanning 50 years in modern Chinese history from the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the Republican Revolution to the birth of the People’s Republic, bringing together over sixty characters who represent all walks of life. The production is directed by senior Changshuo Liu.
Axelrod's Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts Program Presents "Peter Pan"
(OCEAN TOWNSHIP, NJ) --  A family musical that’s perfect for the holiday season, “Peter Pan” is flying onto the Axelrod stage December 8-16. Axelrod’s award-winning Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts program presents one of Broadway’s timeless classics in a fully staged production directed by Lisa Goldfarb with musical direction by Randy Hurst and choreography by Wendy Roman.  

Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!
"It's a Blast!" Go See Rock of Ages 10th Anniversary Tour NOW! at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino!
The five-time Tony award-nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages, returns to the stage with a 10th Anniversary Tour at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino! Performed in the venue’s ultra-modern Sound Waves theater, Rock of Ages runs from now until November 4, 2018.
There's One In Every Family: "Charley's Aunt" at The Shakespeare Theatre
On stage now through November 18 at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, “Charley’s Aunt” is described as “part Oscar Wilde, part ‘Fawlty Towers,’ with a dash of South American spice!” This side-splitting British farce from 1892 has drag, mistaken identity, romance and plenty of physical comedy. Join Jesse and Dave at rehearsals in Florham Park to hear from the cast and director what makes this such a hilarious and enduring show.

Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm


PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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