Thursday, March 28, 2013

Good Humor

We all know a Margie.  

With the economy still suffering, most of us can relate to the struggle of the single, just-fired-from-her-dollar-job mother at the heart of Good People, showing at the Cleveland Play House through April 14. 

Feeling out of luck, Margie becomes obsessed with the idea that Mikey, a former high school flame who has become a successful doctor, could help her find a job. A glimpse inside Mikey’s upscale life has Margie asking herself why he achieved the “American dream,” while she is still stuck in their hometown the rough Southie neighborhood of Boston. 

At one time or another many of us have asked ourselves that question. That authenticity is why Cleveland Play House Artistic director Michael Bloom lauded Good People as one of the best American plays of this century. It's also why Margie’s curt one-liners had the opening night audience roaring in laughter while her emotional fits had audience members stopping to ponder how the circumstances we are dealt effect the outcome of our lives. Here’s three reasons you might enjoy the play, too.  

Photo by Roger Mastroianni
Bingo!: The funniest scenes are at the bingo hall. As a non-winning number is called out, Margie and her friends — her wacky landlord, Dottie, and lifelong friend, Jean (known as “Mouthie from Southie”) — throw their hands up and scream out a barrage of curse words not meant to be uttered in a parish. Outside the church, the one-liners keep rolling, matter-of-factly, one after the other. When Margie’s boss, Stevie, fires her explaining that he can’t have unreliable employees, she snaps back with, “It’s a dollar store, who do you think is going to work here?”

Quirk factor: Each character's odd habits adds personality and makes us laugh. Dottie hawks her kitchy, obviously handmade bunnies at bingo tournaments. Margie launches into flustered tirades filled with plenty of f-bombs and s-words followed by a sweet “pardon my French” and has a habit of “busting balls” with wry comments such as, “I expected pillars” when seeing Mikey’s house for the first time.

Teachable moments: The play offers so many rich lessons that the Play House turned it into an educational program for kindergarteners through fourth-graders, Margie and Mike. Everyone can relate to Margie’s struggle. The play challenges our tendency to judge people who are below us, and forces us to think about how our futures would change if we weren’t given opportunities. Could you say that you would be in the same spot you are today without money or help from your parents or mentor? I certainly don’t know if I could. 

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