When you grow up in a tough neighborhood and become a wealthy professional, are you obligated to return and help the struggling community you left behind? That question underlies “Good People,” a probing play now at Capital Stage.
Margaret is a middle-aged mom who works as a low-wage cashier. She barely makes the rent on her dingy flat. She struggles to care for a daughter with developmental disabilities. Margaret is often late for work, and as the play begins, she gets fired.
Stevie: You’re not reliable!
Margaret: You can’t say that! I may be late… once in a while.
Stevie: They don’t want unreliable employees.
Margaret: This is a Dollar Store! Who do they think is going to work here?
Stevie: Is that what I should tell them?
Margaret: What they don’t want is people earning $9.20 an hour….
Margaret is desperate, so she looks up her old high school classmate Mike, they dated briefly decades ago. Mike is a doctor now, with a fancy office. Margaret tells him he’s rich, he allows that he is “comfortable.” But she suggests that he’s become “lace curtain,” and lost touch with his roots. And that hits a nerve.
Mike: Alright, professional I don’t mind. But “lace curtain…”
Margaret: It just means you did good.
Mike: No, it doesn’t… I haven’t been in the neighborhood for a while, but I remember what “lace curtain” means…
Margaret: It’s a good thing, Mike.
Mike: No, it isn’t. It means I think I’m better than other people.
Margaret: That’s not what it means….
Not only does the doctor live well, he pays his babysitter $15 an hour – much more than Margaret was paid as a cashier. And very soon, the past mingles with the present, as Margaret and Mike comprehend how very different they’ve become as adults, and start staking out the moral high ground.
This excellent Capital Stage production of playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s play features a fine performance by Rebecca Dines, who we used to see playing eloquent Shakespeare heroines. Now, Dines plays a struggling woman who never went to college, trying to understand why she ended up poor, while her high school boyfriend moved up. It’s a fascinating tale involving fateful choices that didn’t seem important at the time, but had lasting consequences. The show contains riotously funny scenes, especially when economic and social extremes are contrasted. But in the end, “Good People” is a touching story about the paths that people choose in life, sometimes for good, and sometimes not. “Good People” continues through June 1st at Capital Stage in Sacramento.