AISLE SAY Florida (visiting Chicago)


by David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by K. Todd Freeman
Steppenwolf  Downstairs Theatre
1650 N. Halstead St., Chicago, 312-335-1650
Sept. 13 through Nov. 11, 2012 

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker 

ItÕs no wonder "Good People" is currently the most produced new play in America, and not just because it won last yearÕs Tony. Though itÕs set in two socio-economically very different parts of Boston, itÕs an American and maybe universal story about class and its effect on peopleÕs opportunies and personas. Margie (fiercely, friendly and feisty Mariann Mayberry) is a middle-aged Southie (i.e., lower class, poor, little schooled, not above racism) with a retarded teen daughter and without a job.  SheÕs just been fired from a dollar store, by her friendÕs manager-son no less, for being too late too often. Too bad her sitter isnÕt dependable and others, especially a Chinese gal, may be willing to work for less.  So when her landlady (Molly Regan, as cruel as casual), though a friend, begins to talk about needing MargieÔs flat and rent, a suggestion from pushy pal Jean (Lusia Strus, flip) sends Margie to see Mike to give or help her get a job.  Her 30-years-ago high school flame, heÕs now a  successful M.D. fertility specialist (Keith Kupferer,  rightly complex).  In his upscale office, he obviously finds her out of place, but she pursues--and gets--an invitation to a birthday party his wife is hosting for him. And though Margie soon hears itÕs been called off, she suspiciously drops in anyway.

MikeÕs plush place on Chestnut Hill, a stark contrast with MargieÕs flat and bingo parlor hangout, livens the contrast between them.  HeÕs proud of  having studied hard to get away from South  and worked all the way through medical school and beyond.  But Margie, who can throw him off as being lace curtain Irish,  believes he was and has been lucky in ways she wasnÕt. Thus, sheÕs not had his choices, and that made the big difference in their situations. Meeting his privileged African-American  wife Kate (smooth Alana Arenas), despite her surprising welcome, strengthens MargieÕs contentions. Eventually both women size up everyoneÕs situations from their own points of view and Mike has to meld them into his own. ItÕs a wonderful scene that embodies the playÕs dominant question: Is character or are chance  and circumstance  determinant in shaping oneÕs life?

Walt SpanglerÕs designs lit by Kevin Rigdon make the differing scenes  perfect, just as are each characterÔs  costumes by Nan Cibula-Jenkins.  The realistic dialogue is delivered in the best Steppenwolf tradition.  The leading characters are fully fleshed out and, under Todd FreemanÕs direction, natural.  Though the main function of MargieÕs gal friends is exposition, they are as defining of MargieÕs milieu as is the scenery.  They and even MargieÕs ex-boss all in some way merit inclusion in the title of a play that is also good.

Sound & Original Music is by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen.  Stage Manager Christine D. Freeburg is assisted by Michelle Medvin.

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