The Dayton Theatre Guild, who staged memorable local premieres of “Fuddy Meers” and “Kimberly Akimbo” by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole”), delivers a splendid local premiere of “Good People,” Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 Tony Award-nominated working-class dramedy about misunderstanding, regret and neighborhood pride in South Boston’s Lower End a.k.a. Southie.
Delicately directed with impressive authenticity by Debra A. Kent, this terrifically insightful, humorous and engrossing character study concerns the resilient yet brash Margaret “Margie” Walsh, a down-on-her-luck single mom of a handicapped adult whose search for employment reunites her with her high school boyfriend Mike, a successful doctor. When Margaret realizes just how far removed Mike has become since their youth, sparks fly with the underlying knowledge that everybody’s perspective of the past is never the same no matter how hard you choose to see it differently.
Rachel Wilson and Shawn Hooks deliver their finest performances as the central couple who could have been more than fleeting lovers. Marvelous in dialect and conviction from start to finish, Wilson effortlessly navigates a beautifully complex, fully-realized journey in which you not only feel but absorb Margaret’s desperation and helplessness due to past mistakes and circumstances beyond her control. Hooks, amiable and sharp, avoids embodying his role with a chip on his shoulder which allows Mike to come forth as genuine and rightfully perturbed when his Southie allegiance is called into question. Wilson and Hooks worked very well together last season in the Guild’s entertaining “Expecting Isabel,” and they unite deeper here to palpable proportions with an entirely real, unforced chemistry.
Additionally, four fantastic featured performances delightfully propel the story, containing discussions of bingo, neighborhood lore and political incorrectness in typically peculiar Lindsay-Abaire fashion. Heather Martin, in a welcomed return to the Guild, injects sassy spunk into her portrayal of Margaret’s outspoken landlady Dottie, who earns extra money with her kooky crafts. Wendi Michael is an absolutely understated joy as Jean, Margaret’s direct, encouraging friend who seems to know more about the colorful ongoings within Southie than anyone. Alexander Chilton, bringing authority and concern to the pivotal opening scene he shares with Wilson, is also winningly understated as the good-natured Stevie, Margaret’s former boss-turned-bingo partner. In a remarkable Guild debut, the magnetic Shyra Thomas nearly steals the show as her breakthrough portrayal of Mike’s elegant, sophisticated wife Kate pokes holes into and ultimately reexamines Margaret and Mike’s relationship with surprising results that in turn forces her to see her privileged world in a new light.
Kent’s first-rate artistic team includes scenic designer Blake Senseman, lighting designer Jason Vogel, sound designer K.L. Storer (who once again assembles outstanding, story-driven musical selections for scene changes), costumer Linda Sellers, property masters Senseman and Deidre Bray Root, and dialect coach D’Arcy Smith.
Considering the fact that there’s a little bit of good in everyone, don’t skip the invitation Lindsay-Abaire and the Guild extends to become acquainted and captivated by six intriguing individuals whose distinct lives mirror ourselves and those we love.
“Good People” continues through Oct. 19 at the Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton. Performances are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. Act One: 55 minutes; Act Two: 55 minutes. Tickets are $19 for adults, $17 for seniors and $12 for students. For tickets or more information, call (937) 278-5993 or visit www.daytontheatreguild.org