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Good People

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In 2011, David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, Good People, premiered on Broadway and was nominated for two Tony Awards — one for Best Play, one for Best  Leading Actress; it took the trophy in the latter category, earning Frances McDormand her first and, so far, only Tony (though she’s received two Oscars for her work in movies).

Now, after several national and international productions, Good People is making its OC debut in a homegrown staging at Anaheim’s acclaimed Chance Theater, through May 20. (The Chance is the city of Anaheim’s official resident theater company and officially known as Chance Theater @ Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center.)

With stellar direction by Jocelyn A. Brown and a convincing cast of performers, Lindsay-Abaire’s drama is brought to life on the Chance Theater’s Cripe Stage, and it remains as relevant in the Trump-era of 2018 as it was when it was written nearly a decade ago, if not more so.

The plot focuses on Margie Walsh (Amanda Zarr, in a credible and unadorned characterization), a native of  South Boston, a working-class burg of the city, where wages are low, poverty is high, and for many so-called Southies life is a hand-to-mouth, day-by-day  struggle. Due to her hard-pressed life circumstances, Margie is habitually tardy to her job at a dollar store.

When we initially meet Margie she’s having an intense encounter with the store’s manager, Stevie (a sympathetic Alec Kenney), who’s been directed by his boss to fire Margie.

Margie is a single parent with a daughter who has special needs, rent is coming due, and Margie is facing and has faced an array of incidental expenses (such as a costly and unexpected dental crisis). Margie has few options, so her friends Dottie (a kindly outlandish portrayal by Karen Webster) and Jean (well-played by Bridgette Campbell) urge her to reconnect with her ex-boyfriend from high school, Mike, who’s now a well-heeled physician (Robert Foran in a superbly naturalistic performance). Margie is encouraged by Dottie and Jean to suggest to Mike that he is the father of her daughter in an effort to receive monetary support.

In the sincere hope of maybe finding a job in Mike’s office, Margie does visit Mike’s plush place of practice. After much verbal crossfire and word-wresting,  Margie — after Mike suggests some of his fellow physicians might have a job opening for her — finagles an invitation to an upcoming party that Mike jand his wife Katie (a quietly expressive Taj Johnson) are having on an upcoming Saturday night. When Mike makes a call to Margie to inform her that the party has been canceled, she assumes that he is simply embarrassed to have her mix among his “lace curtain” friends. She, therefore, shows up at Mike and Katie’s home on the night of the supposedly aborted party.

Good People is a modern day morality play; it explores questions of luck, opportunity, and choice, using drama to dig deeply into the fundamental and existential questions  that are current and timeless. Lindsay-Abaire’s script employs specific characters and situations to address universal dilemmas.

The Chance offers top-notch stagecraft (Christopher Scott Murillo, scenic design; Jeff Brewer, lighting design; Darryl B. Hovis, sound design; Bruce Goodrich, costume design; and Glenda Morgan Brown providing the dialect coaching to the cast to achieve that distinctive South Boston accent). The winning ensemble of performers convey Lindsay-Abaire’s drama meaningfully and entertainingly.

Good People continues through May, 20. Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 3 p.m.  For reservations call (888) 455-4212. For online ticketing visit www.ChanceTheater.com The Chance is located at 5522 East La Palma Blvd., Anaheim, 92807

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.