Entertainment meets social debate


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Margie Walsh has lived in South Boston her whole life. She was never able to finish school, she got pregnant when she was young, and her daughter was born with a severe disability. Now faced with losing her job and the possibility of homelessness, she is running out of options.

Walsh’s story echoes the struggles of many Americans today. She is the main character in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People, which will open at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert St. Performances will continue through Feb. 16; admission ranges from $15 to $30. 

Good People picks up when Margie loses her job because of chronic lateness. With nowhere left to turn, she looks up an old high-school boyfriend, Mike, to ask him for employment. He had left the neighborhood and had become a successful doctor.

Carrie Houchins-Witt, who plays Margie’s friend Jean, said the play explores to what extent factors outside of hard work affect a person’s success.

“Where you were born, who your parents are, if you have parents, what your school was like — all those things inform that as well,” she said. “I think the whole play is open-ended enough that it doesn’t really answer questions, it asks questions that the audience has to answer.”

While tackling a potentially controversial issue, the play is also designed to be entertaining and has several moments of comic relief for the audience to enjoy. Riverside cofounder Ron Clark, the show’s director, said that makes Good People such a strong show. 

“It is entertaining, which makes it all the more effective as a play in which you can tackle serious ideas and really chew the information about a very serious problem with humor,” he said.

In the United States in December, the unemployment was 6.7 percent, and as of 2012, more than 46 million Americans lived in poverty. Kristy Hartsgrove Mooers, who plays Margie, said because of the economic hardships many Americans face today, the show appears in Iowa City at the right time.

“It’s all about bootstraps in this country,” she said. “We always want to talk about how independent we are and how we do everything on our own. We don’t appreciate how many sacrifices are made for us.”

Osean Perez, 23, the youngest member of the cast and the show’s costume designer, plays Stevie, the store manager who fires Margie at the beginning of the show.

Next to the exploration of success in the show, he said, there is also a look at what makes someone good. The journey the characters and the audience take to discover this mirrors reality in many ways, he said.

“I think that the person who you think is going to be good people turns out not to be, and the people you think are the bad guys … they turn out to be the good people,” he said. “It’s hard to tell who’s good people and who’s not, sometimes, in the world.”

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