November 5, 2012

A Review of “Good People” at Steppenwolf

“Good people” is agreat euphemism. It’s a phrase that helps avoid dealing with unpleasantries – good can mean s.o.b., jackass, prick…and any other descriptors that would probably activate this host’s auto censor.

The title is appropriate to the play. The setting, South Boston and Chestnut Hills aptly provides the background for the exploration of our conception of goodness. David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People, at Steppenwolf through November 11th, seamlessly moves the audience between poor and rich, pride and shame, respectable and contemptible, good and bad. The set changes are integral to this.

From back alley to apartment kitchen to upscale office to Catholic school gym to suburban house and back to gym, the sets slide forward and back, from side to side and from above to keep the progression of the drama in motion.

The audience is moved as smoothly between two worlds – lace curtain and Southie, the Old Harbor Projects and Chestnut Hills. Few things show this difference as the invitation/dare to attend the birthday party…the suburban birthday party that one also saw as a job fair.

The home provides the setting for the climax, the battleground as it were, pitting memory against memory and attitude against attitude. Nice and good and respectable and hard-working and good/bad luck are upended and these are redefined, reconfigured back at the gymnasium in a grand resolution.