“Mike Dillon … He was always good people,” actress Mari Keegan said at a rehearsal for M & M Production’s rendition of Good People last week.
Keegan was in character as Margie Walsh. She sat at a miniscule kitchen table with actresses Barbara Webb, who plays Dottie, and Maria Barry, who plays Joan. They were halfway through the show’s second scene, and Margie had just made them instant coffee. They poured waterfalls of sugar into their cups as she spoke.
Though they didn’t exactly agree with her, they knew what Margie really meant: “Mike Dillon. He’s one of us.”
Hometown loyalty is a quintessential theme in this weekend’s show by M & M Productions, Good People. Class, luck and choices are, too. But it was the spectacular writing by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire that prompted director Jim Webber to bring it to M & M producers Keegan and Mark Ferman.
They needed little convincing; not only could Keegan see that Webber was quite passionate about the play, she said, but Good People has also been quite popular this year. The show, which Boston-native Lindsay-Abaire wrote in 2011, was the nation’s most-produced work during the 2012-2013 season.
Part of the attraction was in the characters themselves, too.
“You’ve met these people. People have said of the show, ‘I know someone just like that.’ It’s very natural, very real, and because it’s new, it hasn’t been done to death,” Keegan said.
Webber agrees; some of the characters, he said, remind him of his family in Boston.
Good People follows Southie native Margie Walsh in her journey to find a new job after her boss Stevie (played by Aaron Compagna) fires her. He’s the son of a woman Margie knew growing up, and he had given her the job more as a favor than anything else. (Stevie tells her he had no choice but to fire her; Margie is always late to work, and upper management doesn’t want unreliable employees. “This is a Dollar Store. Who do they think is gonna work here?” Margie exclaims.)
In the midst of a recession, she feels absolutely hopeless, particularly because her handicapped adult daughter, Joyce, depends on her. Her friend, Joan, suggests that she go see a successful Southie native: Mike Dillon, Margie’s ex-boyfriend. Mike would help her find her a job, Joan said. He was back in town, working as a doctor.
Reluctantly, Margie agrees to give Mike a visit.
It doesn’t go as planned.
Webber thinks that the play is also popular because the topic is relatable today. People all over are experiencing the shame and heartache that comes with losing a job. Margie’s journey, he said, isn’t unique.
“It’s about the path that so many people are on right now,” Webber said.
Many of the actors found very little difficulty getting into their respective roles, mostly because of the writing.
One of those actors is Paul Lussier, who plays Mike.
“It’s really good writing,” Lussier said. “There are clever story twists. … Lindsay-Abaire writes the way people speak. With his characters, I could picture the whole thing.”
Keegan says that the art is also in Lindsay-Aire’s ability to write about serious subjects in a way that makes you laugh.
“The humor is in the situation, in the characters. … These are very real people,” Keegan said.
Barry says it’s the kind of show that people will walk out still talking about, a telltale sign of a good night of theater.
“It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, and it will make you think about things,” Barry said.