Home #Hwoodtimes The Aching Authenticity of Good People at Theatre 40 is Undeniable

The Aching Authenticity of Good People at Theatre 40 is Undeniable

In the Reuben Cordova Theater in Beverly Hills, the performance of the actors in Good People is a powerful reminder of the utter complexity when emotions and finances mix.

By John Lavitt

Photos Amir Kojoory

Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/13/2021 – Theatre 40 puts on an achingly authentic version of the Tony Award-winning drama Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire at the Reuben Cordova Theater in Beverly Hills. Playing into early January, the performance is not to be missed due to the excellence of the actors and the nuanced direction of Ann Hearn Tobolowsky. The drama about Margie with a hard “g,” a tough-as-nails middle-aged Southie (South Boston) woman experiencing financial hardship and desperate to find help for herself and her damaged adult daughter with a child’s mind, is Powerful with a capital “P.”

If you desire to see fine actors bite into a complex script that allows them to shine, then Good People at Theatre 40 is the show for you this holiday season. Indeed, Good People is another example of Theatre 40’s long tradition of putting on engaging productions. Dancing between several hot-button issues of our time, from economic inequality and abandoning the past to racial politics and embracing a radically different future, this new show tests and surprises the audience at the same time. Although new for Beverly Hills, the show has a rich tradition of success that began with Academy-Award-winning actor Frances McDormand on Broadway.

Although Frances McDormand was lauded by the New York Times for the “ideal balance of expertise and empathy” she brought to her Tony-Award-winning performance, there is an argument to be made in favor of this current production. Without a doubt, Frances McDormand is one of the best actors in the world, and I can visualize her playing the lead. At the same time, I also feel that Alison Blanchard is more suited for the role.

Michael Kerr (l.), Mariko Vam Kampen, Suzan Solomon, Alison Blanchard

Unlike Frances McDormand, Alison Blanchard feels like a Southie through and through. After going to college in Providence back east, I spent a decent amount of time in Boston, and I got to encounter several Southie men and women. With her curly red hair and Irish countenance, Alison Blanchard feels like she arose from the streets of South Boston, and her performance never wavers from this solid and entrenched definition. Watching her on stage, I could not imagine any other place this woman would be.

Incredibly, her performance mirrors her look, as do the performances of the rest of the cast. There is an authenticity to this production of Good People that is undeniable. After rebuilding post a flood on the property, the Reuben Cordova Theater is acceptable but not impressive. Overall, the look of the production is not what captures your imagination. Since the Reuben Cordova Theater is a part of Beverly Hills High School, the show’s set initially feels a bit like a high school production. At first, such a feeling is a bit scary.

However, this feeling rapidly vanishes as the actors take the stage and their performances supersede any physical limitations. Margie and her working-class friends (funny and charged performances by Suzan Solomon and Mariko Van Kampen) draw you into the fraught emotions of Margie’s financial difficulties. When she decides to approach an old Southie fling Mike (Scott Facher in a complex role), who escaped the neighborhood to become a successful physician, you sense her desperation.

Scott Facher (l.), Charlotte Williams Roberts, Alison Blanchard

In the second half of the play, the encounter between Margie and Mike in his home with his beautiful and much younger African American wife (an inspired Charlotte Williams Roberts) proves to be surprising and even electrifying at times. The most profound question asked in this play is whether Margie and Mike are good people? When you grow up in an environment torn apart by trauma and desperation, prejudice and envy, can you come out unscathed? Indeed, can the past ever truly be left behind?

As you might have noticed, I did not go into many details about this play. After reading several past reviews, I was surprised by how many reviewers gave away essential information and revelations that I enjoyed discovering on my own. Please do not worry about the storyline. You can rest assured that Good People is a compelling modern drama exceedingly well-acted by the ensemble cast. Led by a resonant, digging deep into your soul performance by Alison Blanchard, the poignant drama is a success for Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills.