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'Good People' Examines the Choices that We Have... And Have Not

by Cassiopeia Guthrie, May 23

"You want to talk about making choices? ... You're wrong if you think everyone has them." Choice and lack thereof are at the center of Oceanside Theatre Company’s newest production, Good People, currently in production at the Brooks Theatre, where it runs for one more weekend.

Stevie and the girls play BINGO.
Cast of Good People. Photo credit Ken Jacques

The drama, written by David Lindsay-Abaire and helmed by directorial debut Sandy Campbell, follows Margie Walsh, a kind woman with roots - and branches - in one of the more demographically poor neighborhoods in her region. Though some of Margie’s friends and her romantic partner, Michael Dillon, made it out of Southie, she hasn’t had the same luck, having gotten pregnant and subsequently have had to raise a disabled child. Though she is friendly, warm, giving to her friends, and a devoted mother, she has had a hard time in adulthood maintaining a job due to the care needs for her daughter. In fact, as the show begins, Margie is being fired from yet another job and her landlord is beginning to consider other alternative tenants for the apartment. When Margie reconnects with Michael (now Dr. Dillon) in search of a job, however, their diverging paths are suddenly illuminated, the differences between “best” and “right” come into focus.

Margie and Dr. Dillon discuss with a glass of wine in hand.
Cast of Good People. Photo credit Ken Jacques.

In the lead role of Margie Walsh is stage veteran Susan Clausen, who comfortably affects the regional dialect as she slips into energetic camaraderie with her stage-mates. Clausen’s banter with her characters’ two friends (Sherri Allen and Heidi Bridges) is infused with wonderful chemistry, and the tension between Margie and Dr. Dillon (Ted Leib) and her former boss Stevie (Dennis Peters) is palpable.

Standout scenes between these characters include an initial coffee table scene between Margie, Jean, and Dottie, which is well-paced and directed, and a doctor's office scene between Margie and Michael that bristles under the strain of the reconnecting classmates.

Margie talks to her friends.
Cast of Good People. Photo credit Ken Jacques.

Also featured in this production is Amira Temple, a San Diego State student who easily dons the mantle of Dillon’s wife, Kate, who is finding that she isn’t quite sure who she has married, exactly. While the character itself has fewer opportunities to have her story told, Temple successfully carries concern, frustration, righteous indignation, and a devil-may-care attitude at various points in act two.

I will add that this production includes a few instances of racially insensitive language which are mentioned in a trigger warning in the program alongside profanity. While intentionally called out and in some ways challenged in the script, I still found myself struggling in those moments where they occurred, primarily due to responses of laughter from the audience. I wonder if a pre-show announcement might keep some of this (I hope nervous) laughter at bay.

Kate and Margie speak.
Cast of Good People. Photo credit Ken Jacques

Good People runs at the Brooks in Oceanside through Sunday, May 28.


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