Class, race issues come to light in 'Good People'

Our best contemporary playwrights often aim to examine a current social or political issue through the lens of specific human relationships — but rarely is that aim so succinctly, so affectingly realized as it is in David Lindsay-Abaire's “Good People.”

The 2011 New York Drama Critics Circle Award-winning drama is receiving its Bay Area premiere (after a Broadway run and productions nationwide) at the Marin Theatre Company.

Thanks to an outstanding ensemble, and Tracy Young's empathetic direction, this funny, suspenseful and thought-provoking play gets the caliber of production it deserves.

The playwright sets the first act in working-class South Boston among the marginally employed and the second act in a ritzy suburb (excellent set design by Nina Ball). Lindsay-Abaire himself is from “Southie,” and he clearly has a strong affinity for the hardscrabble area and its people.

Rough-edged, straight-talking Margaret (Amy Resnick), an uneducated single mother with a developmentally disabled (but unseen) adult daughter, is fired from her cashier job in a dollar store, and she's desperate to find a new job.

When her best friend, Jean (a wonderfully caustic Jamie Jones), tells Margaret that her old high school flame, Mike (Mark Anderson Phillips), has set up shop locally as a doctor, Margaret goes to see him, hoping he might give her a job doing anything at all.

The class divide that Lindsay-Abaire sets up — with Margaret, Jean, Margaret's chatterbox landlady (Anne Darragh) and a young dollar-store manager (Ben Euphrat) on one side, and Mike and his charming but steely eyed black wife from Georgetown (ZZ Moor) on the other — is complex and nuanced. Race issues figure in.

“You're good people,” Margaret assures Mike as he politely (at first) and guiltily tries to distance himself from her and his own clouded Southie past.

But she also calls him “lace-curtain Irish” repeatedly. Watching him squirm, she says, only half-jokingly, “I'm just bustin' balls!”

And when she shows up at his house, and he offers her a glass of wine and asks “How is it?” and she says, “How the f*** would I know?” the audience laughter is deep and rueful and knowing.

The stakes are high, and the plot unfurls at just the right pace and with just the right balance of interconnected issues.

Lindsay-Abaire's dialogue and characters, and his themes of personal pride, personal ethics and all-American class warfare, have the unmistakable ring of truth, so beautifully brought to life here.

Good People

Presented by the Marin Theatre Company

Where: 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. most Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes Sept. 15

Tickets: $37 to $58

Contact: (415) 388-5208,

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