Thursday, March 7, 2013

Unicorn "Good People" review by BobEvans

Good People deserves big audiences Rating: 5

Good People
Unicorn Theatre

Margie and Mike grew up and dated in the south part of Boston in the mid to late 1900s, but choices and opportunities they made drastically changed the trajectory of their lives. While one escaped the life in the low rent district, the other stayed mired in the problems of the less fortunate circumstances. Good choices versus bad choices changed their lives.

The Unicorn's current production, GOOD PEOPLE, tells the story of Margie a single mom who struggles and fights current and past circumstances to eek out a living while Mike resides in the upper class part of the city and has, as he calls it, a "comfortable" living. Hard to believe their lives intertwined as children and just a couple of opportunities and choices drastically altered their lives.

Margie dropped out of high school due to pregnancy and the result was a mentally handicapped daughter that needs constant care and never progressed beyond simple learning. Being a single parent, Margie must work to keep food on the table, a roof over their head, and provide the medical needs of her grown daughter.

Mike, on the other hand, found an opportunity to graduate high school, attend college, and pursue a degree in the medical field helping rich couples conceive. His secrets, his past, his prejudices, and heartlessness provides the fire to the play. His rocky marriage becomes the focus of Act II after Margie comes to his house to revisit his past, meet his family, and seek employment via his associates.

Margie lost her job at the beginning of the play as a result of poor attendance and tardiness to a local dollar store. A tough economy, few marketable job skills, a handicapped daughter, and a need to make good on the mistake of an unplanned high school pregnancy drive her to pursue whatever work she can find. Her advancing age also hinders her search. Approximately in her late 40s to early 50s, her age does not make job seeking any easier. She maintains a very good attitude and accepts her station in life until her friends at a local bingo game encourage her to revisit her past high school boyfriend and inquire if he has a job for her or can help her secure better employment.

The dark comedy keeps audiences entertained in Act I and several hints within the act give a taste of what is to follow. Fortunately, even as the story unfolds, the comedy continues amidst the drama of her situation. Mike and his wife play a central part as the play develops and you learn that poor people can have hearts of gold and more affluent people can have secrets hidden in their closets. Audiences also see the path to success not always ends with happiness if the heart is already flawed.

Count on The Unicorn to present great shows and challenge their audiences to see life in a different way. Count on great casts and great direction to produce plays that audiences enjoy. GOOD PEOPLE drew many to their feet at the curtain call, and the show was still in previews. The show will grow with audience responses.

Masterfully crafted, Margaret, played by Jan Rogge, shows what happens to nice people when they allow life to overwhelm them. The character begins and ends as a very likable person who suffers from lack of education and low self-esteem. The character elicits many laughs and never allows the drama of her situation to overcome her good nature. Even in the darkest parts of the play, the audience really wants Margaret to win. What will Margie do? How desperate is she? Will her situation change with some new choices? Is she over-reaching her station in life? Is she strong or weak? Did she make the right choices or not? Rogge delivers the character by carefully walking the line and secreting the past choices and the dire consequences of those choices.

On the other side of the conflict is Mike, Scott Cordes, who feigns interest in Margie, just until he can find a way to extricate himself from her reminder of his past and where he grew. Seemingly nice and good on the surface, the character beneath produces the darkness for the show. Cordes walks that line perfectly. Is he or isn't he? Will he or won't he? The audience never knows which way his character will turn. Will the near-fatal beating of another boy during high school haunt him? Does he over-compensate for his past racial errors in his selection of a wife? Was he bought and sold as a piece of meat, or was he really that gifted and determined to become a doctor? Will he make amends or will he run and hide behind his degree and social status? Cordes carefully develops the character as the show progresses. Only toward the end will the audience determine if he is good person or not. His character leaves the audience wondering. Cordes gives a great performanc!
e of a complex character, as expected.

No show with such strong characters builds with audience without a supporting cast that equals the intensity and passion of the central characters. Two very talented actresses, Kathleen Warfel and Manon Halliburton provide the background story for Margie and help develop her persona through their coffee time and bingo games. From them, the audience learns the history of Margie. Both give strong performances and develop hefty characterizations needed for this play's success.

Not to be outdone, Dianne Yvette and Phillip Russell Newman provide a suitable climax to the second act with their portrayals as Mike's wife and the dollar store manager. While their characters are smaller in speaking terms, their characters develop the darkness of the situation and help with the climax. Both give very good, solid performances.

The show's title, GOOD PEOPLE, is about just that, Good People. All of the characters have their strengths and weaknesses, but they are all basically viewed as good people by the audience. The play explores their drive and motivation. Most will identify with the situations and stations of all the characters and possible recognize a little of themselves in each character.

The Unicorn's production is an enjoyable evening of theater and should not be missed by theater aficionados. The show will entertain a wide audience.

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