Beyond “Race,” There Is Always The Issue of Class. Thoughts on GOOD PEOPLE.

We’ll be staying close to the issue of Race for the next two weeks, while our production keeps running through March 17. But we’ll move onto the closely related issue of class divisions that separate and define us all the more in America. Last night students who’ve been writing about Mamet went to see David Lindsay-Abaire’s GOOD PEOPLE at Arena Stage. We can all see see why it’s one of the most popular and timely plays in the country. We can read their responses below. Congrats to Arena Stage on a widely hailed and wonderful production.
Good People

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44 responses to “Beyond “Race,” There Is Always The Issue of Class. Thoughts on GOOD PEOPLE.

  1. I was extremely impressed with ‘Good People’, and of all the plays I’ve seen in D.C. thus far, this play was my by far my favorite. What made the biggest impression on me was the reality of the play. In comparison, the other plays we’ve seen seemed almost forced and convoluted. I could actually picture this play unfolding in real life; the characters seemed like they could be from the less well off part of my town, and their issues were the issues of many Americans today. One of the audience members asked the actors in the post-show discussion why they thought this play is being so widely performed across the country. The woman who so perfectly played the scheming, ingenuous character Dottie responded that she thought the play was relevant because it is the story of millions of Americans. This story could actually have been a real story, and that really struck a chord with me and with the rest of the audience as well.
    The acting and set were both superb as well, which is essential, I think, to any production. Some of the accents I questioned slightly, but overall the effect was astonishingly convincing. I could not believe how much expense the theater was able to afford with the set. It was amazing to me that they could literally build two houses on the stage that looked perfectly believable. It says a lot about the D.C. theater scene that a company is able to cover such large costs.
    I also appreciated the playwriting itself; I can see why it won a Tony award. It was funny, it was sad, it was uncomfortable, it was moving—and every moment seemed very much in its place. I never felt as though a line was misplaced or a moment was awkward. I think that the entire production from start to finish was made up of very talented people.

    • Katharine Randle

      Karinne, I thought the sets really contributed to the realistic feel of the production as well. I really enjoyed seeing the sets being taken down in between scenes. Not only was it really interesting to see what went into constructing these beautiful and detailed sets, but also I think seeing the stagehands do the work in between scenes helped contribute to the social commentary. I doubt many of the audience members came to see the sets being put together, but the stagehands were sort of participating in a type of performance as they put together the sets. Their coordinated actions produced a piece of art, just like the actions of actors or dancers do. What they did was beautiful even though they weren’t the “stars” of the show. I think a parallel can be drawn here between the Chestnut Hill residents and the Southies. On the surface we may have expected the higher class residents of Chestnut Hill to be more polished and attractive, but we saw that the people of Southie have a strong sense of pride and loyalty that makes them beautiful in a different way.

    • Good People was easily the best play I’ve seen in my short stay in Washington D.C. It’s central question was very insightful: do we choose, or do we live? It’s tough to say whether we really have any control over our own lives, or whether it’s just a matter of circumstance.

      It’s an interesting question. I grew up in Los Angeles, and I was lucky enough to get admitted into a private school. I will say that I got a head start on life because of the time I spent in Los Angeles. I’ll never talk badly about my middle school and high school experience, but it’s a double-sided experience. My high school was great, and I learned a lot there. I learned about the subjects I was taught, and I was driven to study those subjects. I never would have achieved as much as I have now if I didn’t go to Brentwood.

      At the same time, I recognized that the kids admitted to my high school did not quite understand what real life was like. My dad was an English teacher in East L.A. and my mom was a nurse, so I received an insightful experience into life. At the same time, I compared the life I lived with the life my peers lived, and it was vastly different.

      I’m very happy that I went to the school I did. I take advantage of the opportunities to receive every day that I can.

      But these differences help me realize how Good People is so applicable to our everyday lives.

      Do we choose our situations, or do we just fall into them? Are we lucky, or are we born into what we experience?

      These are the questions Good People try to answer, and these are the questions Good People are able to answer.

      It was quite an experience. And I am happy I was able to attend.

  2. Katharine Randle

    I found last night’s production of Good People to be wildly entertaining and thoroughly thought provoking. David Lindsay-Abaire was able to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of exposing audiences to the uncomfortable reality of class envy while not making them feel uncomfortable. I think the reason I didn’t feel alienated despite the potentially uncomfortable subject matter was the play’s natural feel. Unlike Mamet’s Race, which at times felt didactic, Good People delivered themes subtly through natural dialogue that was extremely funny. In the post-show discussion, an audience member highlighted Lindsay-Abaire’s ability to weave humor and drama. I think this was what made the show feel so natural. As actor Michael Glenn mentioned, at times we are so uncomfortable that we just have to laugh. The woven nature of the comedy allowed the play to not take any time away from exploring the issue of class relations.
    In conjunction with the dialogue, Todd Rosenthal’s beautiful set reveals the tensions between the upper-class residents of Chestnut Hill and the “lowly” Southies. The dilapidated buildings of the Southie neighborhood offer a constant imposing presence on the stage. The depiction of Kate and Mike’s home is nestled in between these two structures, reminding us that Mike will never fully “escape” his roots. Rather than find a way to bring together these two parts of his lives, he feels haunted by his past. His living room walls are adorned with pictures of different buildings — among them a New England light house and a busy European-looking street. It is as if he is trying to surround himself with every place except for his old neighborhood. The bunny that Margie brings as a gift is the only decorative piece with Southie roots, and Mike smashes it against a wall in what I saw as an attempt to destroy anything that connected him to his youth.
    As I was leaving the theater, I heard many audience members speculating about the identity of Joycie’s father. At first I was struck by the twist, but upon deeper reflection of my experience at Arena theater I realized that it ultimately didn’t even matter if Joycie was premature or not. At its core the play explores the differences between our fate and our choices. No matter how many “good” choices we make, a large portion of our lives is left up to fate. Even if Mike wasn’t Joycie’s father, the point the play made is that he could have been. In this sense, the play offers a new interpretation of the “American dream.” It is not fair to think that our success is only determined by how hard we work. Our choices matter because they are the only things we can control, but in the end our fate will be determined by luck as well.

    • I think you make a very valid point when you say it doesn’t matter who Joycie’s father was. I had been wondering myself who the father was and then as soon as I read your thoughts, I instantly agreed with you. Although the mystery of Joycie’s father is in many ways a central focus of the play, it isn’t the actual identity of the father that is the issue. It is, like you say, the question of whether you can avoid your fate through making ‘good choices’ or if your life is simply a combination of lucky outcomes. I also like how you said, “the play offers a new interpretation of the “American dream.” I think that many Americans wholeheartedly believe in the classic American dream, and the idea that you can achieve anything if you have ambition and a good work ethic. However, Margie’s experience as well as that of many of the other Southie characters demonstrates that success cannot be simplified so much. You cannot just be successful if you have a good work ethic, this play suggests. There are many factors that play into where you end up, and luck is most certainly one.

    • Kate- per usual, I agree with you; I of course also agree with the convergence of sets / music, but also with the unique point you brought up of the all-too-real pragmatic sense merged with the humorous moments, which lent a very real feel – since life is full of all of these dynamic elements, and certainly forces us to deal with the humor, the happiness, the laughter, the joy, but also the sadness, harsh realities, and harsh emotions of daily ritual. Also, the sense of repetition as a sense of consumption is a nice theme you mention.

    • Kate – Thank you for your observations of the set! I did not pay quite as much attention to the design, so this helped me appreciate the thought that went into designing the setting. Of the plays that we’ve seen so far, this has definitely been the most elaborate (though Glengarry Glen Ross is in close second). Aside from the layering effect that was mentioned during the post show discussion, I liked how you pointed out that Mike’s fancy house is nestled in between the dilapidated buildings of the alley, almost reminiscent of how you can’t change where you came from. I agree that there’s an argument that Mike is cutting specific connections to his Southie past, but I also agree with the discussion in that he’s making an effort to reconnect to the community as a whole (ex. him being on the board of the (I think) the Boy Scouts?)

    • Sarah Koehn

      Katharine:

      I really like how you coneccted Mike smashing the bunny to him destroying any connection to his childhood. I never looked at it that way. I saw it as an action of anger, but I think you’re right, I think there was much more to it. Also, I thought that Mike was Joyce’s father. Margie just told him she was lying because she didn’t want to be thought of as a bad mother. I thought she was making it up at first because her friend told her to, but then at the end we find out it was actually true. But I do agree, most of life is left up to fate and we only have a small amount of control over what actually happens to us. I also like how you point out that we can make “good” choices and still not have a fantastic life. There are so many dynamics which make us good or bad people, and in fact, being good is quite subjective. I think everyone is good in their own way, and that is what this play taught us. Everyone has been through something that make them who they are. All of the characters in Good People have had different experiences and different struggles, but they are joined by their Southie roots.

  3. Even though we do not know, and will mostly never come to a consensus on, what makes a good person, I think for all of her flaws, Margaret is a good character. Her pride makes her incredibly compelling and realistic. She will never beg, and so she is forced into uncomfortable situations such as the scene in Mike’s office, where she is desperate for anything, has to hide that desperateness by saying she does not know what jobs are available at a doctor’s office, and returns to the topic even long after he has said he has nothing for her. Margaret undoubtedly has other traces of questionable morality and imperfection in her too, most of which come to light (along with everyone else’s) in the incident at Mike and Kate’s house. There are occasions when she seems to be purposefully exacerbating the tension between the married couple, but it is devastating each time she refers to choices and what she could have done. Someone who is more of a good person than a good character would not possess that fallibility that causes the audience to empathize with her.

    At the end, we do see that Margaret has undergone several shifts in her attitude. However, it is debatable on what exactly causes that change, since there are two possible explanations. As mentioned in the post-show discussion, Kate’s suggestion that Margaret is a horrible mother strikes a chord within her. Margaret believes herself to be doing everything she can for Joyce. The fear that this might be the case could subconsciously drive Margaret to take the money over anything else. It caused Margaret to withdraw from the argument at the Chestnut Hill home, so there is precedence for her sacrificing some of her pride.

    On the other hand, Margaret’s sudden acceptance of the rent money and willingness to work at less-reputable businesses is overtly triggered by the unexpected act of kindness by Stevie. Stevie is not particularly well-off himself, nor has he been recognized as a constructive figure as opposed to Jean with her moral support and Dottie by watching Joyce. However, by living in this neighborhood of South Boston, he has established himself as “family.” In the program, MacDonald defines family as one of the central themes of Southie life, with “always this feeling we were being protected.” Thus, I am more inclined to believe that this is Margaret’s motivation for her personal change- someone truly within the family has done something unselfishly for her and taking that money serves as an acceptance of his generosity while promising to pay it back. Even though in periods of great stress and anger, Mike reverts to his Southie self, he is actively attempting to separate himself from his past and does not trust Margaret with Ali. Despite how he has actually fathered Margaret’s child, he is no longer family.

    • Rachel Adamo

      I would like to elaborate on Mary’s statement regarding what is considered a ‘good person’ and the pride instilled in the character of Margie.

      Francesca Choy-Kee (Kate), Rosemary Knower (Dottie), and Michael Glenn (Stevie) participated in the post show discussion. All three actors expressed their gratitude and enjoyment in participating in such a highly reproduced production. During the question and answer session, one audience member asked a question that I am sure many others were pondering. This audience member inquired why, in the end, Margie retracted her accusation that Mike was the father of her severely retarded adult daughter, Joyce, after Mike’s wife, Kate, harshly questioning the validity and truth of Margie’s accusation. In addition, Kate voiced that if Mike was in fact the father of Joyce, that she (in Margie’s position) would have pursued Mike, explained to him her situation, and asked for both physical and monetary assistance with the child. If Margie’s statements were true and she indeed made no effort to find Mike, the father of her child, Kate proceeded to state that Margie was a bad mother who does not care enough about her child.

      Michael Glenn answered the audience member’s question by quoting the playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire. Michael Glenn said that Lindsay-Abaire wanted the character of Margie to back out of her statement in the end because he said that to Margie, being considered a ‘good mother’ was more important than being considered a ‘good person.’ So, Lindsay-Abaire wrote Margie’s character to take back her statement and proceeded to lie to Kate and Mike when she state that she made up the story of Mike being the father of Joyce because she thought it would be “funny” when in fact it was a true statement.

  4. The production of “Good People” preformed last night at Arena Stage was far and away my favorite performance of the year. The night was terrific, starting with the facility in which it was performed. The newly renovated Arena Stage was striking with hard wood floors combined with a modern feel. The Arena reminded me of the Brooklyn Nets’ new billion dollar arena the Barclays Center. “Good People,” set in a poor south Boston community, does not disappoint. The staging was unbelievable and really helped to make the performance. As Variety’s review said, “If Good People isn’t a hit…there is no justice in the land.” I could not agree more. The performances of Rosemary Knower and Amy McWilliams conjure- up images of Mickey Ward’s sisters and family in the best picture Oscar nominee The Fighter. In particular, their performances during bingo night, begging the priest to call the winning number and then dropping F-bombs upon losing, was not only hilarious, but unbelievably accurate. The humor in the show was the direct result of the terrific character development and the stunning reality of their sad situation. What really stood out to me was the underlying discussion of whether success is determined by skill and hard work or by luck. Was Mike’s success the result of his hard work and long hours of study at UPenn or because his dad stopped him from killing the black kid in a childhood fight? I believe the bingo night was not only put into the play to emphasize the characters’ Irish Catholic heritage; but, as a metaphor. I believe the play argues, while success is without question partly determined by hard work and skill, you need some luck to win. Just like in bingo. I personally have been unbelievably lucky to have been born into a family with parents who value education. While I have worked very hard to get where I am today, I also recognize how lucky I have been. May the” Luck of the Irish” continue to shine in my favor and on all of you.

    • Brian, I agree with you on the how a mix of luck and hard work is required in order to reach success. Furthermore, your identification of bingo as a metaphor for this relationship is apt, especially considering the closing scene. It demonstrates how Margaret is willing to work hard even at Gillette in order to get by, and that they are all relying on a bit of luck, whether it is Stevie’s spontaneous lending or depending on the idea that something will come along. The ringing echoes of “G53,” the final square Margaret needed in the previous game, as the characters stare out into the audience, is particularly poignant. The optimist in me says it is a sign that luck is on its way; however, it is also very easy to interpret the scene as ominous, as if luck will always come too late no matter how hard they try.

      • Jamesa Johnson

        So like Brian and Mary, I also thought about what Bingo symbolized in this play as well. I thought about the idea of chance and luck and how it could represent everyone playing the card they’re given some that just happen to be winners and some losers. This brings up some really interesting points about the timing of the bingo games and how she loses the first two just as her situation is particularly bad. My only qualm with the school of thought that what happens to people is solely based on luck (outside of this scenario: a community of lower income Whites) is that it assumes everyone begins at the same starting point, that everyone has a fair chance which isn’t always the case because of say race or religion in addition to class. Nevertheless, the reality is that Kate and Mike’s daughter was born into wealth and opportunity while Joyce (Margie’s daughter) was not. This reality means that the privilege Kate and Mike’s daughter has will put her in an altogether different position when it comes to this debate of hard work or luck. That was particularly interesting to me; the juxtaposition of people born into wealth, those who worked for/had the chance to have it, and those who were born into a low socioeconomic status which really shakes up this whole debate of what it means to “work hard” or to be “lucky”

      • Brian, thank you for mentioning the bingo as a metaphor for the idea of luck streaming throughout the play. I did not even notice or conceive of this metaphor. What you have described makes me think about how much luck there really is in life. However, I almost wonder if the playwright should have even said there is a lot of fortune in life, not luck. I can’t really imagine Margaret describing her thought in a word such as fortunate, but I feel like this word describes the idea better. Even though Mike was very lucky that his father prevented him from making a mistake, I think Mike was more so fortunate to have such a concerned father in an area like South Boston. I really feel like the “luck” I experienced in my life can be best described as a product of being fortunate enough to have great parents who care about me. However, I do agree there is a certain amount to luck, and I am very thankful that you made this connection. Thanks Bri! By the way, the “luck of the Irish” line was a nice conclusion.

  5. Mark Greer II

    I enjoyed “Good People”. Mike’s character made me think about my journey to where I am now. I am from Detroit, MI. I grew up in several neighborhoods that were not the best. I went to a public school from kindergarten through eighth grade. It was not the strongest school academically but I developed strong relationships with a lot of my classmates and neighbors. Most of which society would consider “hoodlums, thugs, hoodrats” you name it. Most of them did not have the opportunity to go on to college like I did. The difference, like Margaret told Mike was that I was one of the lucky ones. Both of my parents were around and cared about my education and they monitored a lot of what I was doing and who I was hanging out with.
    I loved my k-8 school and the friends that I made there because that is where I developed my drive. I saw people struggle with life and their education. When my parents made me go to my private high school, I tried to stay in touch with my classmates. A couple of my friends were headed down the wrong track and I had to distance myself from them as I focused more on my education. They got in trouble with the law a few times when I was going to hang out with them but my parents prevented me from going. I got lucky. We came from the same neighborhood but my father stayed around and he and my mother were committed to ensuring that I had everything that I needed to excel.
    I am graduating from the University of Michigan in May. At the post discussion, some of the actors mentioned how people are coming out of college and having to make the decision to return to their neighborhoods or leaving. I am struggling with that decision right now. At this point, I know that I have to get some experiences outside of Detroit and come back to the city and do the work that I want to do there. My motivations for doing so are my classmates and being able to make a better city for them and their children. After the play, I got on Facebook and connected with a few of them just to see how they are doing. They are handling their situations and are living well. Their life may not adhere to societies idea of “successful”, but they are getting by just fine. One of the phrases in the play was ” He is good people”. We grew up saying that but phrasing it as “they good peoples”, meaning that they are a good person to be around and have their head on straight.
    Margaret told Mike that all of his success was wasted on him because he did not realize how lucky he was. I also thought it was interesting that he believed that everyone had the same chance to get out of their situation. Society has to understand that life is more complicated than pulling one’s self by one’s own bootstraps. I wouldn’t be here without the support of my family and friends that motivate me to be here. It is a sad reality that a lot of people leave their situations after they are successful and never return. I plan on being just as successful but I know that I could never turn my back on Detroit.

    • Mark, you bring up a good example from the theme of the play and relate it to your own life. It is difficult many times to attain higher education and professional success and grapple with how to maintain relationships with people that you grew up with who are living in a less privileged and completely different world.

      I see this kind of split between people that I grew up with. Often times I will look through Facebook to see what many of my peers from high school are up to now. It is intriguing to see this split between the young women who are already married and have kids, and those living an extended (although more independent) adolescence by being in college the way that I am with parents to still depend on. While we were all in school together during the day so the differences between us and our home lives and cultures may not have very apparent, they are very much manifested in how our lives are shaping out to be now. Many of my peers that are moms and working and supporting themselves and a family grew up in less affluent households and/or had less parental support and influence to attend a four year institution. While I did not grow up in an affluent household, I had a mother who really pushed me to go to college and expected me to do well.

      This play reminds me more and more that I could be living the life of some of my peers more and more who are working and supporting themselves and are likely living paycheck to paycheck. If anything, “Good People” makes you stop and reevaluate your own life.

    • Mark your comments were very insightful and really made an impact on me. The decision you are facing to return back to move on or return back to your home town is a very noble one. While I wish I could say something that would help you with you decision, I can tell you that no matter what you decide you have made the people who care about you very proud. Just as Mike was able to rise above his situation, so to were you able to because of you and your parents commitment to education. I truly believe that the only way to improve our country and the inner city in particular is to improve education. Education opens door to places we can’t even dream about. I would love to talk to you about how you think this could be accomplished and what need to change.

  6. Kimberly Beck

    “Good People” at Arena Stage might be my favorite productions so far. What a great combination of drama and comedy. We asked some the cast members, who spoke to the audience members who stuck around for the post show discussion, what is a good person? The answer seemed to be that there aren’t good people but rather we are all humans-there are good and bad things about everyone. Someone responded that Stevie was a good person. I was surprised when we learned he gave the rent money to Margaret and not Mike, but I was sad none of the cast responded that Margaret is a good person. She could have broken up Mike’s family and demanded 20+ years of child support, but she didn’t. She almost made that decision, but she did not and that is what good people do. We all have the choice to do bad things. Good people decide not to. Although, one of the actors, who had spoken directly to the writer, revealed that the writer had told him the reason Margaret says she had been lying to Mike was because of the comment his wife had made to her about being a bad mother. She would rather have seemed like a good mother- which according to Mike’s wife because she had not contacted Mike for over 18 years then she had not done all she could have to be a good mother. It was great seeing a play about South Boston, which I personally have a cinematic obsession with. My favorite movies include “The Departed”, “The Boondock Saints” and “Goodwill Hunting”. The accents were all fantastic and the characters all lovable in their own way. And most importantly the production makes one ponder on the abilities and possibilities people are given depending on where they grow up, how they are raised and how much luck they are served. What a great play.

    • I AGREE!!!! I think Margaret is a good person, too!!! She could have done so much damage but she didn’t. After seeing the play I actually have reflected that I think Mike is a BAD person. He knew the baby could have been his but he never even pursued the idea. He rudely told Margaret that he would’ve “dumped her anyways”. And I think he knew deep down after Margaret confronted him that he was Joycies father… and as far as I am concerned he should’ve been sending Margaret rent money FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE. I was actually upset to find out that it was Stevie, and that Mike wasn’t a big enough man to step up and do what was right. Margaret was a good person. Mike was an a-hole. That was my takeaway. Bottom line: I totally agree with you.

  7. I hate to be so overtly optimistic, but once again – this topped the charts. Freakishly, perhaps, in increasing order, each week has topped the last, and particularly the convergence of sets and music made this week’s showing of “Good People” my favorite thus far during this course, or during our semester here in Washington.

    The sets lent a realistic feel, as did the acting, which, at least in my opinion, was markedly different than prior weeks shows. It had something to do with the very specific direction, for example, in Mamet’s two plays we saw, that lent a strategic and specific feel to each time the characters spoke, but it did not feel nearly as natural – it felt, in my opinion, like the themes were being conveyed well, but forced at times. This week, though, by stark comparison it felt natural as though the characters very easily could be having these same conversations in homes, living rooms, offices, coffee shops, and front yards throughout various towns and suburban areas of large cities throughout America today.

    The music was clearly a ripoff of famed rock band, “Green Day,” though orchestral arrangements were added to the end of each musical stanza in this show. I was quick to note afterwards that this may have been for rights and licensing reasons – that they didn’t have full permission to use the actual Green Day tracks – but nonetheless this is the first production we have seen whereby I specifically noted the sound highlighting and underscoring a natural and genuine feel, exacerbated (in a great way) by both the dialogue and rhetoric style, and also by the very realistic-feeling sets. All combined, this play taught me what I like in a production – the genuine feel that some people may not prefer – and that music, dialogue, and sets are a strong asset set towards that objective. Solid A in my opinion, and very much enjoyed.

    • Jingru Huang

      Hi Brandon, You precisely described how I felt about these plays we have seen. And I’m with you, I also dislike overtly optimistic.
      I really like enjoyed the play a lot, and one thing that I didn’t mentioned in my blog post was the importance of the unique functions that each person has throughout the play.
      I think every single one of them is a textbook; we all have met these kind of person in our life: Margie, a very artless woman with not much education, but she follows her routines and knows well what she wants, and is kind and fight for her life hardly; Stevie, who may be you may not like, but is really doing what he has to do and try to help you without having notice it; Dottie who is always messing up things but actually, many times, she points out the most important points if you would think those through; Jean, like a drama queen, who is also a good friend, loyal and helpful although loves to giving advises that may ruin your things; Mike, a successful person who you is too success that you may jealous of his lucks; and Kate, a nice, warm-heart, high educated and generous girl from an affluent family, but seems very far from your life.

      I think this is also a part that makes me feel the play is so REAL!

    • HA! Our first paragraph is actually the exact same. I agree that this play was absolutely the best yet. And you’re right, I think it may be because how natural the settings and conversations seemed. It is almost like we were watching a documentary about someone’s life… It seemed that realistic to me. I totally didn’t realize that the music was Green Day.. but now that I think about it you are totally right. There was so much going on during this play that I missed that I am seriously wanting to see it again. One thing people mentioned several times was Mike’s changing accent. How did I miss that?! Glad we are on the same page.

  8. I was enthralled by the production of “Good People” that we saw at the Arena. Something that stood out to me right from the start was the traditionally masculine nature of Margie, Dottie, and Jean’s language. They occasionally referred to one another as “son of a bitch” and other masculine forms of profanity. This seemed like one way in which the playwright subtly added nuance and texture to the Southie world he so masterfully created – a gritty world where the need to make money trumps any gender norms that might prevail in, for example, Mike and Kate’s world.
    Diction was merely one way in which Lindsay-Abaire juxtaposed two vastly different socio-economic spheres. The traditionally male language (mostly profanity) employed by the female characters also evoked a sense of independence from (and perhaps frustration with) the men in these women’s lives. Even though they made comments like Margie’s at the end about how pregnancy is a means of trapping a man in south Boston, they ran their own lives without relying upon men. Mostly because they had to. What struck me as very interesting, though, was the giddy, gossipy, traditionally female energy they emoted when talking, for example, about how Mikey Dylan still looks good. Margie’s simultaneous pride, self-deprecating sense of humor, and occasional fear of self-assertion also spoke to some of her more traditionally female qualities. It is so important that gender be viewed and understood in terms of its intersectionality with class, because it manifests so differently across class lines. For example “being a woman” or “being a good mother” mean almost opposing things to Margie and Kate. These gender dynamics are especially key to unpacking the conversations that recurred throughout the play about how Margie was “too nice” or “not nice at all”. Her female Southie compatriots viewed her as “not nice enough” and frequently cited that as a problem. To Mike and Kate, however, who live in a world where manners have heightened importance and people are more frequently judged on a surface level, Margie could hardly be construed as “nice”.

    • Kimberly Beck

      Alana, I hadn’t really thought about the way gender was treated in the play. Good observations! The masculine mannerisms amongst the Southie women was pretty noticeable and a substantial part of the play. They do seem to complain about men a lot but at the same time having a man in Southie means you have two incomes supporting yourself and your children. It is a cycle that can be damaging. And yes, the self-deprecating humor is usually a feminine trait–unfortunately. It is funny that Mike and Kate did not see Margie as nice, while Margie’s Southie friends, Jean especially, feel that she is nice. In fact, Jean thinks she is too nice.

  9. The play “Good People” was a good look at real life. I enjoyed watching the play and seeing the real-world lives of people take place. With the increasing economic problems our country has and the growing disparities between the rich and the poor, it was extremely eye-opening to get a glimpse of what life is like for so many people in this country.

    One thing that was mentioned in the post-show discussion really struck me. I do not recall who mentioned it, but someone talked about how the playwright of this play did not intend this to be a comedy, he was just writing about his life and people he knew. However, when this play came out, it got more laughs than plays that were intended to be comedies. While this was interesting to note, I also was struck with how I should feel about it.

    I was conflicted because while the play was funny and I laughed at several times throughout it, I was uncomfortable with the thought of me and all of the other audiences that have watched this play before laughing throughout the play, like working-class lifestyles are some type of spectacle to be gawked at by upper-class people who have no idea what it is like to experience life like that. While I know this to not be completely true and the laughter that goes on during the play falls into more of a gray area than that, I am wondering where one can draw the line between laughing because the play exemplifies the kinds of things that happen in real life, and laughing because the culture is outrageous and something that is okay to be mocked.

    While I absolutely think it is okay and necessary to have plays that show a realistic view of life like “Good People” does, I hope the messages of the play are not lost on any audiences. Yes, while the scenes of the cast at Bingo were funny and displayed the personality of the characters, it is also eye-opening to think that these Bingo outings are the only thing that they did or really could do for fun because of the (presumably) low cost to play a round, but even then you might feel guilty for playing because you just lost your job and have no money.

    I really did enjoy the play and the fact that even though the characters living in Southie had heavy life burdens due to limited finances, they still had senses of humor and found pleasure from simple things, like getting together to play Bingo. I think this play is definitely a good reminder to appreciate the smaller things in life and to take pleasure from what you have.

    • Austin Bergstrom

      You bring up a really good point that I had not actually thought about regarding the humor in this play. I’ve heard before that good comedy is the comedy we can all relate to. To see something that we may have thought was unique (if not bizarre) to our own personal experience depicted by a total stranger as human nature is both amusing and, in a way, relieving. At the same time, I’m sure not all audiences could relate to these characters. That they would still find the play as hilarious is a little disconcerting, I agree. I like to think that the actors in this play did such an incredible job that even audiences who could not relate to their situation were transported momentarily into that sort of lifestyle, and that the humor came from their talent and the powerful script.

      Thanks for acknowledging this!

    • Louis Sievers

      Bri’An, I also like that you brought up the element of humor in the play. In the post-show discussion, one of the actors mentioned that originally the play was not intended to be a comedy and the playwright was surprised when so many people laughed during the first showing because he wrote the characters to be like people he actually knew. I don’t think he meant this as an insult to them, though, as it instead showed the strength of the people of South Boston in dealing with their situation. The way they talk may be humorous to us, but to them, it is a way to interact and try and escape from their despair for a little while.

      I am reminded of one of my favorite comedians, Kevin Hart, who has a standup special simply titled “Laugh at My Pain.” One of the running jokes throughout the set is about his father who was addicted to cocaine while Kevin was a kid. He makes jokes about the way that he acted and talked while on cocaine, including one time when he embarrassed Kevin at parent-teacher conferences. Though he is laughing the entire time while telling the jokes, you can tell he is pained by these memories of his father. Laughter is what helps him get by, though. He doesn’t intend to be mean to his father, nor does David Lindsay-Abaire intend to be mean to the Southies when writing Good People. Instead his humorous lines show the will of a people to get through hardships that most of us could not imagine, and I think that’s why I enjoyed the humor so much in the play.

  10. It seems that every play I have seen in Washington, D.C. progressively gets more impressive. After having seen “Good People”, I can understand why this play is so popular in the U.S.; it was a great production of a great play. Not only was the show amazing because of the great acting, it also had an amazing set. However, I think this play is so popular because of two reasons: 1). its applicability to the people living in the U.S. and 2) more importantly, it speaks a lot about what it means to be a good person.

    While I do believe “Good People” did a great job of showing the contrasts between social classes, I think the play does a greater job of showing the audience what being a good person is all about in our modern day. Like the title suggests, the show really spoke to me about what it is to be a good person. And, in my opinion, I agree with what Francesca Choy-Kee said. In our post-show discussion, Francesca said that every character was a good person in his or her own way. I really like this statement because I truly believe that this mentality is reflective of our society. There are no single standard or an objective definition that dictates who is a good person or not. To a certain degree, everybody is acting out of his or her own personal subjective definition of what makes a person good. I think that Kate and Margaret is a great example of this subjectivity. Kate believes providing for her child should be Margaret’s number one concern, and this is Kate’s idea of what a good person would do. Alternatively, Margaret, by not making Mike feel obligated to provide for Joyce, believes helping a person escape from their environment is what a good person would do. In such a situation, both characters weren’t necessarily wrong or correct. However, both ways of thinking were right in their individual minds. The great difference in the two characters’ opinions of what qualifies a person as good exemplifies this subjectivity.

    One side note: In the play, we saw Margaret who made the selfless decision to let Mike go to college without being obligated to help out with his then unborn child. When this was brought up in Kate’s presence, Kate made the argument that Margaret should have told Mike in order to provide for her child; Kate said that’s what a good mother would have done. However, I would like to argue that, at the time of Joyce being conceived, Margaret probably had more of a connection with Mike than she did with her unborn child. Thus, justifying her choice to not tell Mike. But I also really liked what was said during the post-show discussion regarding the pride of Southie and how that prevented Margaret from telling Mike the truth in order to not be labeled a bad mother.

  11. Louis Sievers

    In my opinion, the performance of Good People we saw at Arena Theater was the best play we have seen so far this semester. The acting was excellent and some of the best I have ever seen, especially the performances from Johanna Day as Margie and Andrew Long as Mike. They were able to paint a good picture of the differences between the upper and lower classes of Boston, which were the central conflict in the show. The thing I enjoyed the most about Good People, though, was its ability to address a difficult and highly political issue in a very entertaining and funny manner.

    Lets move on to that discussion the show raised about class differences. Especially here in Washington, it is common to hear people discussing how people who work hard can get ahead in life and should be rewarded for their work. And while I agree that most successful people do work hard to get where they are, but the problem with this line of thought suggests that people who are not successful don’t work as hard as the ones who are. The issue is much more complex than that, though, as the play showed. Mark was able to get away from Southie because he was smart and worked hard to become a doctor. He also had a father who cared for him and watched after him, a luxury according to Margie. Margie, on the other had, explained a situation where the cause of a job loss could be traced back to eating a piece of peanut brittle because she was hungry that cracked her tooth. In both of these situations, things completely outside of their control affected both Margie and Mark’s fates. The problem with solving the problems regarding these class differences, though, is that many people take the view of Mark; they can’t admit that some times, they were very lucky compared to other people. And while this is a big problem in America today, so long as people continue to try and simplify the problem, it will be impossible to find a solution that can actually help everybody. People still need incentives to try hard, but the social safety nets that are in place are equally as necessary.

  12. Austin Bergstrom

    Like almost everyone else that has posted I really enjoyed this production of “Good People.” It reminded me a lot of where I come from and the people that I knew growing up (my family included). The sets were impeccably on point in their details. When Margaret opened the cupboards in her apartment she had the same boxes of Kraft macaroni, saltines, and jars of peanut butter that I remember seeing in my own childhood kitchen. I even remember people who made crafts out of pipe cleaners like Dottie. I know my obsession with sets probably is a dead giveaway of my limited theater background, but I think in this particular play it helped establish the class differences so central to the theme.

    Overall this play hit home in a way none of the other one’s have (with the exception of “Race,” perhaps). As I mentioned in my post about “Our Town,” I come from a town where nearly everyone lives paycheck to paycheck and not many people get out. Like Mike I did have parents that, so to speak, “watched me out the kitchen window,” and a mom who made sure I did my homework every night. I liked the tension Mike had between his hometown roots and his successes. Whenever I go home and run into people from high school they treat me a little differently because I go to Berkeley. Mike is constantly telling Margaret that it was all a matter of his hard work, and up to the very end she tries to make him see that despite his “Southie” childhood he had much more going for him than other kids in the neighborhood—he had luck. I overheard many people during intermission talking about how they feel exactly like Mike when they go back home. While this is true for me also, the play made me check my privileges and the fact that I did come from a stable, supportive home regardless of the neighborhood and class level.

    The final fight scene between Mike and Margaret was excellent. In the post-play discussion the actors mentioned the accent training they received and remarked on how Mike’s character reverts to his thicker “Southie” accent when he looses his temper. This slight detail just points to the extreme professionalism and talent of this group of actors. Each and every one of the characters were written and brought to life with such genuineness and truth. This play felt real to me. In the same way that “Race” dealt with, well, race, with such brutal and necessary honesty, I think “Good People” forces audiences to see issues of class in America as they really are.

    • Austin, I really like the point you raise in your final paragraph here. I didn’t realize during the play how Mike reverted so automatically to his “Southie” origins when he was expressing rage. When that was brought up in the post-show discussion, it became very apparent to me how distinct (and seamless) of a transition he made between his acquired “refinement” and the original self that he kept suppressed. The most important part of the post-show discussion, to me, was when Michael Glenn brought up the point that we are products of our environment, and when we leave our hometowns, we acquire the language/mannerisms/rapport of our new environment. But I think emotion, especially extreme emotion, has the tendency to recall our most primal and original selves, often bringing them into being in a harshly transparent way. It is not uncommon for us to pick parts of ourselves that we’d rather leave behind, products of our childhood or adolescence that we don’t deem adequate for our current environments. When we are at the mercy of emotion, these tendencies surface. But I think it is important that we be aware of, and reflect upon, how we develop as products of our environment – both past and present. These accumulated traits are what make us who we are.

  13. Overall, I think “Good People” is a fantastic play. I think it was able to highlight the issue of class struggle in America within a natural storyline that involved everyday conversations that we would hear in many households. Luck was mentioned a few times throughout the course of the play, and I think it is an important element to consider, as it can really be a game changer.

    The heated argument between Margie and Mike at the house was quite memorable as Margie pointed out that Mike was able to work his way out of poverty was because of luck, not because he worked hard. At first, I disagreed with Margie, but when she mentioned the time when Mike’s father saved him from going to jail by stopping a fight, I realized that she was right. Mike was lucky to have a family to look out for him. I am sure that he worked hard to reach his goals, but I hope he would also realize that he was given more support than some others who may not have had anyone to count on. On Margie’s part, I understand that she was struggling, but I don’t think it was right for her to lie to Mike about her daughter, and I was glad that she admitted that she was lying at the end of the play. I believe that she was a good person at heart, and she would be able to get out of her troubles if she kept working hard.

    In the end, things turned out well for her, as she received a check. I initially thought it was from Mike, but when I found out that it was from her former boss, I was touched, because I felt that there are good people out there who are willing to help folks out in times of trouble.

    • Melissa Correia

      Hey Julian, I would agree with what you said about luck being an important element in the play, but I think that one of the questions we should consider is how important is luck in determining circumstances in the play, as well as what is luck? Can the Doctor’s father looking out for him really be described as luck, or is it just a reflection of the realities of living in certain areas; that if you dont have someone to look out for you, especially in your earlier years, it is very likely that you will fall victim to unfortunate circumstances. Of course by luck we mean that, it was not Margaret’s fault that she did not have that support that the Doctor did, but the play shows that it was her fault or rather her decision not to tell the Doctor about his child; and I should add that there are mixed opinions as to whether Margaret’s child is really the Doctor’s. IN any case, form the perspective of luck, Margaret had the opportunity to tel the Doctor about the child and receive some aid with caring for her, or not to bring the child up at all, and perhaps to still receive some assistance or support from the Doctor’s family. Although her actions make for a great storyline, her judgement is in my opinion somewhat responsible for her ‘bad luck’ at the end,

      • I agree with your point of the importance for Margie to take ownership of her actions, because ultimately, the decisions that she made determined the path of her life.

        Another important point also struck me in your comment- you mentioned that it was Margie’s decision to not tell Mike about the daughter- was the child really Mike’s? I had assumed that Margie made up the story in order to receive child support. If the child was really Mike’s, I feel that Mike should have the right to know, and he should also take responsibility in providing care of his own daughter.

  14. Jingru Huang

    (I already finish my whole blog and I forgot to say,) THIS PLAY IS WONDERFUL. IT MADE ME REALLY WANTED TO STAND UP AND APPLAUDE!!

    During the play, I paid more attention on Margaret’s personality as I think she must be the “Good people. At the very beginning for scene one, I didn’t think Margaret was a “good people”. I thought she brought up the story of Stevie’s mother because she had already been aware of the fact that Stevie might have her laid off, so she hope that Stevie would consider the closeness and friendship that she had with his mother before considering having her fired.

    I think Margaret is an artless woman. She says things in an unfiltered way without feeling inappropriate with her racism and the words that contain abusive meanings to people. These not only show that she’s a simple person, but also show what kind of background she was coming from. Her background and traits —from working class and being racism— are what the playwright thinks the stereotypes possessed by people towards that region.

    Another reason I think that she’s artless is that her change of mind of telling Kate and Mike that her daughter wasn’t Mike’s. That was a huge question for me when thinking about why she didn’t admit it. I was thinking that maybe she was discouraged by the fact that Mike was telling her nothing would ever change even if she told him back then; also, maybe she didn’t want things get even more worse after being involved in that huge fight with Mike and Kate… However, during the post-show discussion, Francesca Choy-Kee answered this question. She said that the actors discussed with the playwright before and David, the playwright said that because Margaret wants Kate to see her as a good mother rather than good person because during the play, Kate was arguing with Margaret about why she didn’t tell Mike 30 years ago about his daughter so that her daughter would never have to suffer or being raised alone. In my opinion, it’s definitely right when Kate was illustrating her point of view that she would never give up her daughter for her pride; however, when it comes to other people, you need more considerations of their situations and put yourself into their shoes before judging them. I don’t think a mother would have that deep connection with her child right after she knew that she’s pregnant; I think Margaret was absolutely be more considerate towards Mike and his life because that’s the person she loved as a man and she treasured as a friend. It’s true that she didn’t tell him the truth at the very beginning, it might be because of her pride; however, for 30 years, she has never told him, found him or even phoned him for any kind of helps even she and her daughter weren’t living in a good condition. That’s not just pride, but her perseverance.
    We have all noticed that Margret is a complex figure, as well as all other characters. Margret doesn’t take that money as charity, but she wants the “charities” —the job of babysitting their daughter— from Kate.

    Another aspect of this play that I paid a lot of attentions on was about leaving one’s hometown because that’s tightly connected with my personal life. I was born and raised in China for 18 years and then my family immigrated to the U.S. I totally agree with what Mr. Michael Glenn was saying about one leaving his or her hometown. It is really hard to go back and fit into the place again once you leave it for a long time, in my opinion, that’s more than 4 years. Not only that you are changing, but the place is changing as well. Besides, it’s even special for people who knew that they would never come back and live in there again. Throughout the first 4 years, I missed going back to China a lot; every year, I booked my ticket on January and I would feel excited until June, and I once I came back from China on August, I felt extremely said because I had to face this unfamiliar world again, being independent in the world that I don’t even know the language well! However, after 4 years as being in the U.S., I feel it’s more comfortable about the life in the U.S. because that’s the life I’m living in every day. And I get tired of going back to China because I knew I would get used to the crowds, and most importantly, I know I have to familiar with my U.S. life— equipping myself to fight for my life without parents’ supports— AGAIN. I no longer like the psychological switches and I prefer to stay in one place.
    Back to the play, I also found a little bit of myself in the character, Mike. When Margaret first found him in his office, they were both feeling awkward because they haven’t seen each others for 30 years, and Margaret was even more nervous because she needed a job from him; however, later on, they both started to reveals themselves. It might be because they figured out that they knew each other way back then so they had nothing to hide, or it might be because of that Margaret was getting more comfortable of talking to him, and even sat on his chair. I was paying attention on Mike’s change during that scene because I realized that at the beginning, he was more like a professional man but later on, as they talked more, he was talking in a way more like Southie, or more like Margaret.

    The last thing I would like to mention is that I was hugely impressed by the setting of the play. It’s awesome!!!! Those settings are so real and there were so many of them, which make the play much more vivid.

    Thank you.

    • Jingru, I really enjoyed your response! It was really nice to hear YOUR story about what it is like to go back to an old place once it/you/both have changed. Sometimes I feel that way when going back to my hometown each summer when I come from the University of Michigan.. Because each year I have changed and done a lot of growing, but my hometown hasn’t changed at all. Your story is a lot more intense than mine, however, with your old home being a different country! I can totally understand how it would be hard to go back someplace that you have grown apart from. I feel bad for Mike because I think he was sort of ashamed that he lost the “Southie” in him when he obviously thinks about it frequently (we know that because he is on the Boys Club Board), but he isn’t able to understand it and be apart of it as the way he used to. Thanks for your insight! I agree, I wanted to stand up and applaud, too!

  15. WOW WOW WOW. I feel silly because every single week I come to write on the blog here and I am always saying “best show yet!!”. And here I am about to say it again. Good People was absolutely incredible. It was hilarious but also yanked at my heartstrings.

    The first half of the show laid down all of the groundwork for the second half. Although the storyline wasn’t meant to be funny, the characters brought livelihood and laughter to the subplots we came to understand as they all slowly intertwined. As each character was introduced and we learned more about their story I found myself really embracing each individual character. Rosemary Knower as Dottie was one of the funniest characters in the play. She could not have been cast better! From the hair pile on top of her head to her crafted bunnies, she had me in stitches. Amy McWilliams was exactly what I envision in my head when I think of a lower class Boston resident, from her advice to her accent. And I feel like it almost goes without saying that Johanna Day as Margaret was unbelievable. After seeing her journey throughout the play and her struggles, I felt like I had a much deeper insight into the life of someone living in a rough neighborhood.

    The second half of the show had a much heavier tone, but I could really appreciate it after the light-hearted insightful first half. The life of Kate and Mike was MUCH different than the life of Margaret & company. Kate and Mike’s biggest current worry was whether the caterer would come pick up the tables and chairs, while Margaret was struggling to make ends meet and care for her mentally disabled daughter. It put a lot of things into perspective for me. One of the underlying themes of the play was luck. Mike was fortunate enough to have it on his side, as he escaped what very well could have been his life as a southie. Margaret didn’t “have someone looking over her from the window” like Mike did, and was unfortunately stuck into a life she was born into. Kate and Mike’s problem of having too much cheese in the fridge was actually laughable when compared to the daily obstacles Margaret was facing.

    I feel like the Washingtonian review really summed up my feelings. The review said, “It’s hard to say whether People working so well is more the result of top-notch actors or the scripts they were given. Obviously, it’s a little of both, which couldn’t be more fitting. The production tackles the age-old questions of nature versus nurture, hard work versus circumstance, and perception versus reality with straightforward freshness and finds that the answers are never black or white, or good or bad, but somewhere in between. In life, as it is in the dingy bingo hall Margie and her neighbors frequent, sometimes the cards are stacked against you and sometimes you get lucky.” Fortunately, I was dealt a lucky hand so far in life, but it is important to remember the struggles of those less fortunate than yourself. I think this play is extremely relevant right now, given the class divides our nation is seeing. I am so glad this play is being produced all around the country right now, because I think it’s something a lot of people need to see.

    It’s going to be nearly impossible to top.

    • OH! And I would like to add that the beautiful set was fantastic. Just like I said with David Mamet’s Glengarry, it really added to the play. Seeing characters interact with their environment made the play much more realistic.

  16. Melissa Correia

    What is a good person? Who is a good person? Does it matter to be good at all? The production of “Good People” at Arena Stage brought these complexities to life in the presentation of the harsh realities of life for residents of Southie, Boston. The play implies on the one hand that the comfortable lifestyle of certain characters like the Doctor, are only made possible by the sacrifices and actions of ‘good people.’ Yet on the other, the play shows that each of these good characters whose kindness is evidenced in their interactions with each other, are also at fault for their own predicaments and perhaps even for the predicaments of others, whether it be marital or financial troubles.
    I think what makes the play poignant, is its personalization of certain opinions or philosophies about moral absolutism. During the confrontation scene which occurs at the Doctor’s household, Margaret reiterates a recurring theme throughout the play, that being the insufficiency or inadequacy of her own personal characteristics which have become enjoined with her position in life. She asks the Doctor, whether she is not good enough to watch his child, does he not trust her, does he not believe in her because of her poverty?
    The play then raises the question of whether each of the characters involved are good because of who they are, or because of the choices that they make, or both. Furthermore, if the choices that these characters make are dependent on the opportunities that are provided to them, then, it becomes difficult to determine who re what a good person really is. Is a good person someone who does what they think is best for the other person, and acts selflessly, like Margaret does by acting in the Doctor’s interest by not telling him about their child? Or is a good person one who does the best for themselves, knowing that by doing so, they are doing the best thing that they can for the people who rely on them, like their children, or their spouses?
    All of the characters in the play exemplify both sides of the coin, and then some. Although it may not clear what or who a good person is, what does seem to be more evident is that anyone who attempts to be good person cannot do so without some sort of support from others around them. The hope of the characters in the play hinges around assistance or cooperation from another character; on a little bit of compassion. Margaret longs for someone to give her a job or to help her financially or with her child, similarly, the security of the Doctor’s family relies on Margaret’s compassion, and on her decision to deny the fact that the Doctor was her child’s father. The other characters that seem to be more independent than these two in the play, recognize that others rely upon them for assistance, and that the happiness of everyone in Southie, and the well-being of the community depends on their willingness to lend a hand as well.

  17. Rachel Adamo

    Throughout the Politics of Theater class, we have seen a variety of plays centering on a constantly prevailing and principal issue in society: race. The play “Good People” by David Lindsay-Abaire continues with the pattern of race while incorporating another prevalent and important issue: class. Whereas the play “Race” focuses entirely around black or white, as the title suggests, the play “Good People” mainly focuses on the differences in class structure and socioeconomic status, while still keeping the issue of race present.

    The interaction at the home of Mike and Kate between Margie and Mike exemplifies the continual issue of race within the play “Good People.” Margaret (“Margie”) is a white, middle-aged woman born and raised in an impoverished, rough, and struggling area of Boston known as “Southie.” In her daily life, Margie continues to associate and mingle with fellow Southies. Then there is Mike, a middle-aged white male who grew up in Southie but has since detached himself from that stigma and is now living a new and improved life in a wealthy and higher-class area working as a doctor. The conflicts between social class and race occur when Margie goes over to Mike and Kate’s house for a party. Kate, Mike’s wife, is beautiful, young, a Georgetown graduate, and an African American. Initially, I never thought that Mike was at all racist considering his wife was of a different race. However, my thoughts shifted once Margie began telling stories of their childhood together. She told the story of a time when Mike and a gang of boys brutally beat up another kid. This kid happened to be an African American. Margie explained that if Mike’s father had not been looking out the window, noticed this fight, and ran out to stop it, the victim probably would have been beaten to death. After hearing this story, Kate’s demeanor transformed; she was furious, terrified, shocked, and upset, to say the least.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the Arena Stage production of “Good People.” I found this play to be extremely funny, entertaining, and eventful, while still presenting topics that are so relatable at this point in time. Race and social class in particular, both served as powerful, relevant, relatable, and thought-provoking topics.

  18. Jamesa Johnson

    The play “Good People” was thoroughly entertaining. There were so many relevant themes and so many things I appreciated and took away from the play. One of those was the whole notion of challenging the idea of meritocracy in our society. Calling into question the differences between opportunity and hard work. I can see this in so many different scenarios when thinking of socio-economic status, race or even gender how even if one is a hard worker if they don’t have the opportunity they often don’t find themselves in the same position of ‘success’ as those who did. I appreciated that “Good People” accomplished this while not over-doing the racial aspects of this play.

    Another thing that I thought was really pervasive throughout this play was the theme of self-preservation. For example on statement made by Jean to Margie was “You’re too nice that’s why you don’t have anything.” “The matter of doing what was best for one’s self, one’s family the idea that looking out for yourself could be what distinguishes someone who isn’t good people and who is (or vice versa depending on how you interpreted the play) is so interesting to me because it causes me to think about the idea that the only way to have some form of what we know as success, someone has to make a decision that would hurt someone else. The ever-present winners and losers in society.

    Lastly one of the biggest things I took away was the point that one should not forget where they’ve come from. I think that is something that I see people struggle with a lot in my community; how do I hold on to who I am and where I come from and become the person I am meant to be. This certainly is a question I ask myself and will continue to ask through out my personal development.

    • Mark Greer II

      Not forgetting where one comes from is something that I think about a lot. I think about my successes so far and I understand that I wouldn’t be where I am with my mindset without the people that I grew up with and the experiences that we share. Understanding where one comes from includes understanding one’s family narrative. For example, on my father’s side of the family, my grandfather’s family comes from Mississippi. After the abolishment of slavery, they were sharecroppers not too far from the plantation they worked on. Looking for a better life and job opportunities, some of them, including my great grandfather moved to Detroit. There he met my great grandmother who was from Arkansas. Out of their children was my grandfather who barely finished high school but worked in the Ford Plant for over 35 years. My father went into the Marine Corps after graduation. My parents didn’t go to college but they worked hard so that I could have the opportunity to go and finish.
      I will be the first in my family on both sides to graduate with a college degree. I give credit to each generation laboring for the next one to do better than them. However, I understand that I have to pave the way for the next generation as well while honoring my ancestors. Apart of that is ensuring that the people that I grew up with back home have better situations for them and their families. I will do more than Mike who was on the Boys and Girls Club board of directors. My goal is to be more hands on with the change that needs to occur.

  19. I did not start off with a good impression of Margaret. While I understand how desperate her situation has to be, the way she threw out accusations and then proceeded to bring up his dead mother (multiple times) definitely went way beyond appropriate conversation. With Stevie’s parting comment that he didn’t forget that Margaret had called the cops on his mother after the “funny” incident with the turkey, I couldn’t help but think that I wouldn’t have stayed half as long as Steve did, listening to her rant on. After that first scene, I carried a very negative impression of Margaret with me for the majority of the play – she struck me as crass, thoroughly uncultured, and somewhat fake (the last part of which was the most irritating part). It wasn’t a matter of her being from Southie – I quite liked Dottie and Jean, for example. Both of those characters were a lot more straightforward about who they were and what they were thinking. With Margaret, and perhaps because she’s more “complex” as the protagonist, I always felt like she was acting, and that feeling unsettled me. I think the turning point for me came when she thanked Stevie for his rent loan. The confrontation with Mike nudged a little more respect into me when she told him that it wasn’t her job to come after him when he knew where she was. However, even at that point in time, I felt that Kate made a very good point in how inconsistent Margaret’s character was, so my impression of her didn’t change until I felt like she had finally come through and had accepted her situation.

    Mike definitely had an element of “luck” in his success, but I think that Margaret also went too far in her insistence that he was simply “lucky”. I was brought up with the lesson that luck is only an influencing factor when you’ve worked hard and you’re ready for it when you strike gold. That statement, taken without my understanding, definitely sounds ignorant because it fails to take into account environment and family support. My belief in that comes from witnessing a childhood friend who literally took himself through school. His mother worked two jobs to cover their living costs and his father passed away when he was young, so he didn’t have anyone to “look over his shoulder” to make sure he was doing work or “watching from a window”. Where is he now? He’s graduating from a great college. Yes, I acknowledge that luck is a factor, but I also believe that an individual’s determination to change circumstances can make just as much of a difference. Margaret’s constant assumption that “Gillete won’t hire her”, without even making an attempt, made me very angry. I have a lot of respect for people who work very hard and try their best to make good decisions, regardless of what outcome, because they have done the best that they can. Until the end, when I felt like her character finally changed, I felt like Margaret was living in a world where everything would just “stay the same” and that some perfect job would just drop out of the skies for her. This play gave me a lot of food for thought – I’m glad that I got to see a different dimension of her, because it leaves me with a lot more thinking about what happened previously in the play, and how I might have interpreted it differently if not for the initial dislike.

  20. This production had it all: it made me laugh, it made me think, and it even made me sad at times. Good People was phenomenal. I left the theater satisfied and thankful that this play is currently the most produced show in the country. Finally, a play that means something to so many people and has the ability to connect the audience. Everyone has a story. Everyone has something going on in their lives that no one really knows about. This play brings light to the private struggles we all face and teaches us to think twice before criticizing the way others live their lives. Sometimes the most powerful voices are the quietest ones, and I think that is what I got from this play, what I learned from Margaret.

    We are so quick to judge, even when we aren’t trying to. We have all been raised with biased prejudices and we have to proactively correct ourselves in order to put an end to it. At first glance, Margaret is a single mom with no education, no steady job, and living paycheck to paycheck. We find out throughout the play how she got to be the way she is. We learn it’s not always about choices, and sometimes it’s about luck. We make the best of the cards we are dealt in life, and some people just make it out better than the rest of us. Sometimes it is not a matter of working hard and being determined to be successful; it’s a matter of circumstances and luck.

    In Margaret’s case, she dropped out of high school to have a child, who is mentally handicapped. Margaret sacrificed everything to be a mother to her daughter. She did the right thing, and she worked hard every day. But she was disadvantaged from the start. She had no family support, no support from the father, and had no money to pay for child care, leaving her unable to work at times. She never told her daughter’s father, Mikey, that he was in fact the father of her child. Margaret didn’t want to hold him back because she knew he had a promising future. When Katie, Mike’s wife, accused Margaret of being a bad mother for not contacting Mike earlier, she revoked her statement and said she was lying; that Mike was not the father. Margaret would rather be thought of as a good mother than have Mike in her and Joyce’s life.

    I think what really hit me with this play is that this kind of thing happens all the time. We all know someone struggling to make ends meet. This theme ties into our other plays with recognizing the advantages and disadvantages associated with race. Recognizing privilege and luck are extremely important to being a wise and generos person. I was born into privilege and a family that pushed me to do well in school in life. Margaret did not have that same opportunity. I did not ask for it, I got lucky; people like Margaret did not. The only way to combat this inequality is to recognize that it exists and to try and understand it, which exactly what Good People tries to do.