REVIEW: Frances McDormand counts among ‘Good People’ |

Apr 20th
  • Login
  • Create an account
  • Search
  • Local Business Deals

REVIEW: Frances McDormand counts among ‘Good People’

good1030211_optSingle mom looks up an old flame in David Lindsay-Abaire’s new play set in South Boston


It’s a long way from Fargo to South Boston, but Academy Award-winner Frances McDormand makes a touching emotional journey as a working class drudge vaguely hoping to better her dreary existence in “Good People.”

Opening Thursday at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, “Good People” is a new play by David Lindsay-Abaire, whose works range from screwy comedies like “Kimberly Akimbo” to the heartbreaking Pulitzer-winner “Rabbit Hole.”

A drama crafted in a minor key, Lindsay-Abaire’s latest piece is a character study that proves to be small in scope but sharp in its emotional regrets and prickly conversation as McDormand portrays Margie, a middle-aged, single mom who loses her cashier job at a dollar store as the story begins.

Margie’s rent is due, her grown-up daughter Joyce is mentally disabled and life looks bleaker than usual in the hardscrabble Boston neighborhood where she grew up as a “Southie.” Then Margie hears that an ex-boyfriend from high school 30 years before, Mike, lately has returned to town as a successful doctor.

Visiting Mike at his office, Margie wangles a reluctant invitation to his suburban home where she stirs up sympathy — and later some trouble — with Mike’s wife, Kate, a university professor.

Earlier in the play, when her pal Jean suggests that Margie pretend that Joyce is Mike’s child in order to scare up some financial support (“Pull a Maury Povich on his ass.”), Margie refuses to go along with the scheme. Eventually she raises the paternity issue with Mike and Kate, but her reason for doing so stems more from sheer frustration than greed.

Neither the compassionate play nor McDormand’s poignant performance suggests that Margie is a bad person. Mildly passive-aggressive by nature, she’s simply run out of options and becomes desperate in her dead-end situation. So Margie grabs at straws like a drowning cat.

good2030211_optFor all of his story’s underlying misery, Lindsay-Abaire maintains a lively mood through his quick, often peppery dialogue, which is briskly staged by director Daniel Sullivan until the extended scene in Mike’s living room during the second act. Then the pace slows so the audience can observe Margie gradually recognize how far out of her league she is amid the accomplished likes of Mike and Kate.

McDormand’s portrayal of Margie is unaffected yet bone-deep in its genuineness. Tate Donovan warily plays Mike as a good guy guilt-tripped by Margie’s assertion that he’s forgotten his Southie roots and gone “lace curtain.” Renee Elise Goldsberry gives a subtle edge to her otherwise cordial Kate. Becky Ann Baker depicts the ever-needling Jean with a casually malicious nature. Droll as Margie’s landlady, Estelle Parsons’ drawling accents and quirky manner suggest that she is cheerfully channeling Ruth Gordon.

Designer John Lee Beatty’s sets include a church basement, Margie’s cluttered kitchen and a handsome arts-and-crafts style living room. Like everything else about Manhattan Theatre Club’s world premiere of “Good People,” Beatty’s artistry appears unassuming but is right on the money.

“Good People” continues through May 8 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St., New York. Call (212) 239-6200 or visit


REVIEW: Richard Thomas stars in ‘Timon of Athens’

REVIEW: ‘Hallway Trilogy’ leads to disappointing places

REVIEW: Geoffrey Rush delivers a Russian fruitcake

REVIEW: ‘A Perfect Future' yields sour grapes

REVIEW: ‘Compulsion' fictionalizes Meyer Levin's life

REVIEW: ‘Thinner Than Water' sparkles with the bloody truth

REVIEW: ‘When I Come to Die' raises unanswered questions

REVIEW: ‘Lost in the Stars' shines darkly

REVIEW: ‘Three Sisters' evolve over the years

REVIEW: ‘The Witch of Edmonton' burns with feeling

REVIEW: ‘The Road to Qatar!' goes nowhere fast

REVIEW: ‘The Whipping Man' packs plenty of dramatic surprises

REVIEW: Jennifer Carpenter and Pablo Schreiber sustain ‘Gruesome Playground Injuries'

REVIEW: ‘Milk Train' makes a stop at Roundabout

REVIEW: ‘What the Public Wants' gets nicely Minted

REVIEW: ‘Knickerbocker Holiday' throws a musical Tea Party

REVIEW: ‘The New York Idea' not worth a New York minute

‘Spider-Man' way back when: ‘Jumbo'

REVIEW: ‘Cymbeline' gets a keen showing

REVIEW: ‘John Gabriel Borkman' seems a stranger at BAM

REVIEW: ‘The Importance of Being Earnest' offers a Wilde time

REVIEW: ‘Other Desert Cities' sizzles with great acting

REVIEW: ‘Blood From A Stone' drips with dismal doings

REVIEW: ‘A Small Fire' burns briefly






Add your comment

Your name:

Follow/join us

Twitter: njnewsroom Linked In Group: 2483509