Monday, December 9, 2013
By Bob Keyes email@example.com
Denise Poirier is Margie, a South Boston woman struggling to make ends meet in “Good People.”
Photos by Stephen Underwood
Denise Poirier, left, and Noelle LuSane in “Good People,” a Good Theater production opening Wednesday at the St. Lawrence Arts Center.
IF YOU GO
BY GOOD THEATER
WHEN: Wednesday through Nov. 4
TIMES: 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, with an additional matinee at 3 p.m. Oct. 27.
WHERE: St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $15 to $25
INFO: 885-5883; goodtheater.comAIRE
The show, which receives its Maine premiere this week courtesy of the Portland-based theater company Good Theater, tells the story of class struggle in the modern American economy.
It's about a woman, Margie Walsh, who lives in South Boston and makes little more than $9 an hour. She's a single mom with a handicapped daughter, and is one bad break away from desperate times.
Those times come when she loses her job as a clerk at the local dollar store because she shows up late for work. She goes to see her ex-boyfriend, Mike, in hopes of finding a new gig. He's a doctor in Chestnut Hill, and is doing fine for himself.
The best he can do is offer her an invitation to his birthday party. Margie shows up, and is mistaken by Mike's wife as the hired help.
The play is full of laughs and Margie's distinctive Southie attitude. Above all, she is a survivor. No matter how bad things are, she finds a way to cope.
At its core, the play is about the choices we make, and how a bad decision here or there can change the path of our lives. It's about the advantages that some people have over others, either because of decisions that worked out well or because of opportunities afforded to them.
"Good People" opened in New York last year and was nominated for a Tony Award as the year's best play. It did not win, but drew a lot of attention and accolades. It is among the most-produced plays in America this theater season, and is currently running at the Huntington Theatre in Boston.
Frances McDormand played Margie on Broadway, and won a Tony Award as best actress. For the Portland production, Good Theater artistic director Brian Allen cast Maine native Denise Poirier in the lead role.
James Noel Hoban plays Margie's former boyfriend. This is Hoban's debut with Good Theater; this past summer, he starred as the lead in Moliere's "Tartuffe" at the Theater at Monmouth.
Also appearing in the play are New York-based actress Noelle LuSane as Mike's wife, Katy; Jesse Leighton as Margie's boss; Suzanne Rankin as the landlady; and Amy Roche as Margie's friend.
Poirier, who has worked with Good Theater in the past, now lives in New York, where she is making a stand for a life in theater. She relates to Margie.
"I grew up in Lewiston-Auburn, and left when I was 17 because I knew I'd be stuck. I could see what would be in store for me there if I stayed," said Poirier.
That is not a slam on Lewiston as much as it is a statement about Poirier's hopes and dreams. She grew up in a single-parent household, one of five children. She left her home in Auburn for California because she wanted a different life.
Poirier caught the acting bug out West, and found success on TV and on stage. Among her credits are "Seinfeld" and "Frasier." Her biggest role was as the voice for the lead character on the MTV animated sci-fi show "Aeon Flux."
She returned home to Maine because of a family medical emergency.
Poirier, at 50, is a middle-aged actress with a part-time job in New York that helps pay her bills. Her life has taken many twists and turns, and she still holds tight to the hope of making her life as a full-time actor.
It's tempting to give up that goal and take a full-time job -- in fact, she just turned down an offer to do just that. But she wants to act, and she would limit her opportunities if she worked full-time.
Instead, she cobbles together whatever work comes her way. Just before returning to Portland to prepare for "Good People," she did voice work for an audio book.
Whether she regrets her decisions is irrelevant. She's made her choices, and is making the best of them.
She calls "Good People" an important play for these times, because many of us see ourselves in Margie and the decisions she has made, as well as the consequences of those decisions.
"I think there are a lot of people who are really struggling right now," Poirier said. "As she points out, it could be you looking for work right now. There is a class of people that is kind of on the verge of being forgotten a little bit."
Allen, who directs this show, admires Margie's ability to cope. If she weren't so busy trying to survive, she might get down on herself.
But Margie has no time for self-pity, Allen said.
"For many people, her story would be helpless," he said. "But she never loses hope."
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: