Margaret “Margie” Walsh, the central character in Marin Theatre Company’s production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People,” has had a tough life. She grew up in and still lives in a rough, impoverished Boston neighborhood.
The single mother of a severely disabled adult daughter, she has just been fired from her job as a dollar store cashier. Desperate for work, she turns to a former high school boyfriend who’s now a successful fertility doctor.
She hopes he’ll give her a job or steer her to someone who will hire a woman with few skills and no high school diploma but willing to work hard.
Thus the playwright paves the way for what becomes tense confrontations between Amy Resnick as Margie and Mark Anderson Phillips as Mike, the doctor.
The conflict reaches its climax in Act 2 when Margie shows up unexpectedly at the posh home that Mike shares with his younger, black wife, Kate (ZZ Moor) and their young daughter.
Kate is eager to hear more about Mike’s youth in South Boston’s Lower End, where he lived until he left for college, thanks to scholarships and his father’s guidance. Mike isn’t eager to relive those days, especially the time he beat up a boy from a rival neighborhood.
Adroitly directed by Tracy Young, this 2011 play looks at emotionally fraught issues of class, poverty and racism, but leavens it with splashes of humor. Much of it comes from Margie’s longtime friend Jean (Jamie Jones), who’s both cynical and outspoken.
More comes from Margie’s none-too-bright landlady, Dottie (Anne Darragh), who looks after Margie’s daughter. Dottie can be selfish, causing problems for Margie.
The play’s other character is Stevie (Ben Euphrat), Margie’s boss at the dollar store and a patron of the bingo games attended by Margie and her two friends.
With her characteristic blend of vulnerability and grit, Resnick has the audience rooting for Margie most of the way, but some of Margie’s actions, whether motivated by desperation or by anger, show her to be a flawed person, just like everyone else in the play.
Likewise, Phillips shows Mike to be a less than totally moral person despite his professional success. As Kate, Mike’s wife, Moor comes across as polished and sophisticated, but underlying tensions between Kate and Mike surface, and she turns antagonistic toward Margie as the latter’s visit nears its end.
The other three actors balance the play nicely and play important roles in Margie’s life, though in different ways.
This play causes one to ponder what constitutes a “good” person. Most people probably consider themselves good, but they can commit less than good acts because of circumstances as well as character flaws. All these factors come into play in “Good People.”
It continues at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, through Sept. 15. For tickets and information call (415) 388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org.