What makes people tick: 'Good People' at Arena Stage

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Entertainment,Theater,Barbara Mackay

The next show at Arena Stage is a unique blend of social insight and vision into what makes people who they are: David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People." The play takes place in South Boston, or Southie, and tells the story of two people who meet 30 years after they dated in high school.

In "Good People," Lindsay-Abaire examines Margie, a straight-talking woman who has just lost her job at the Dollar Store, and Mike, who has escaped South Boston and become a doctor. Margie can't even pay her rent and has a daughter with special needs. Despite their original ties to Southie, it's hard to imagine two more different people.

"This is a really special play," said Johanna Day, who plays Margie. "I don't think Margie is resentful. She gets angry during the course of the play because of circumstances. She gets hurt and mean, but I think she is in general a very good person, just like everyone in the play.

"They use the term 'good people' a lot in Southie for a person who does the right thing, helps people out, is supportive in the community. Mike is a good person too."

Onstage
'Good People'
Where: Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW
When: Friday through March 10
Info: Tickets start at $40; 202-488-3300; arenastage.org

Remembering what a good person Mike was in high school, Margie decides to approach him to see if he or his friends would employ her, even cleaning their pools.

This sparks a conversation about the play's central issues: life's choices, luck and opportunity. "The arguments that go on between Margie and Mike are about just those things," said Day. "They both have very valid things to say about what happens in life, whether you didn't have something someone else had -- like a parent who pushed you. Margie's problems began, for example, when she got pregnant and dropped out of high school.

"So character colors what happens, but it's definitely circumstances that make you who you are. The reason Margie loses her job, for instance, is that she's late to work a lot because the friend that she pays to take care of her daughter doesn't always show up on time."

Although Lindsay-Abaire's writing is pointedly direct about life as an economic struggle, there is a lot of comedy in "Good People," particularly between Margie and her bingo-playing cohorts. "We grow up how we grow up and it doesn't mean there isn't humor or that you don't laugh," said Day. "You don't go around saying, 'poor me.' There's lots of pride in these people. Pride keeps them strong."

"'Good People' is a really well-crafted play. It's written beautifully and it speaks to everybody. I can't encourage people enough to come see it."

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