Good People is a good play. It is, in fact, an excellent play. Written by it is the most produced play in North America this year. And it is playing at The Centaur Theatre.

Not only is it playing at The Centaur, but it is on simultaneously, in French, at Theatre Jean Duceppe. In conversation with Roy Surette, Artistic Director of The Centaur, (he’s also directing Good People), he said he “saw the play in New York and it had all the qualities I look for when putting a season together … it has to dazzle me in one way or another, it has to have some relevance to the community”.

Good People does dazzle. And it is relevant to our community – especially with, but not limited to, the heavy population of Irish here in Montreal. Surette compares the action in the play to “peeling an onion, taking off a little bit of skin at a time”, thus revealing the innermost thoughts, emotions and rotten moments of the life of someone having to battle every minute to merely exist. Attempting to make a better life for herself and her family is another mountain to climb.

The action takes place in South Boston, (hence ‘Southie’ accents) where bingo is the big night out, where people scramble to make ends meet and where fate often factors in the futures of those living from paycheck to paycheck. (Sounds a little ‘Tremblyesque’, doesn’t it?)

‘Margie Walsh’, a single mother with a handicapped daughter, loses her job at a South Boston dollar store and, in desperation, reaches out to an old boyfriend, ‘Mike’, a Southie boy who escaped the neighborhood and became a successful doctor. ‘Margie’ reconnects with ‘Mike’ in hopes he’ll help her find work. When a mother has mouths to feed and doesn’t know where her next paycheck is coming from, when she is about to be evicted, she will say and do almost anything!

‘Margie’ does just that. The story is ripe with truths and untruths. It delves into the complexities of class distinction, fate, escaping our roots and then returning to them.

Surette hadn’t read the play in advance, nor did he know much about the play. He saw the Broadway production that had Frances McDormand in the role of ‘Margie’ (for which she won numerous awards, including Broadway’s Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play) and was duly thrilled with what unravelled from said onion. “Watching McDormand I thought, Johanna Nutter could play that role”. The wonderful Estelle Parsons played ‘Dottie’. These two actresses together give a clear sign as to the power required by the women in the lead roles. Indeed, Nutter is in Good People, along with other Montrealers, Karl Graboshas, Catherine Lemieux, Sandy Ferguson and Paul Hopkins.

John Dinning will be creating the set for Good People. Knowing his past work, he will, no doubt, reveal his usual magic and transport us to one of the oldest and most historic neighborhoods in the U.S. Made up of working class Irish-Americans, ‘Southie’ in South Boston, is the oldest housing project in America.

Centaur Theatre has produced some powerful plays recently what with last season’s God of Carnage and it’s recent production of August: An Afternoon in the Country.  There’s no question that Good People will take its place alongside these fine works and shine exquisitely its light upon the rarities offered by the Theatre to its audiences. A great moment to look forward to at Centaur Theatre.

TRIVIA: During the Broadway production of Good People, a cell phone rang out in the audience. McDormand stopped the action, put her arm around co-star Renee Elise Goldsberry, and said, “Let’s wait.” After the unwanted bit of audience business was settled, McDormand made a rewind gesture and said to Goldsberry, “OK, ask me the question again.” And they resumed the scene.

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