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Review – “Good People” from Left Edge Theatre in Santa Rosa – by Harry Duke

thumb_2_Kimberly-Kalember-Liz-Rogers-Beckley-600.jpg

Review – “Good People” from Left Edge Theatre in Santa Rosa – by Harry Duke

Left Edge Theatre is a new Sonoma County-based theatre company that seeks to produce “daring plays imaginatively staged for adventurous audiences.”  They hope to achieve that by producing only new works (written in the last five years) that have never before been presented in Sonoma County (or at least in Santa Rosa.) They’ve opened their first season with Good People, David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 “poignant comedy” about the roles that luck, fate and individual choice play in determining one’s lot in life. 

Kimberly Kalember, Peter DowneyMargaret (Kimberly Kalember) is not having the best of days. She’s lost her job at the Dollar Store and her prospects for other employment are limited. She’s got an adult special-needs daughter requiring constant attention, an ex that won’t cough up support, and a landlady (Carla Spindt) who wants the rent. Her friend Jean (Sandra Ish) tells her about running into one of Margaret’s old flames (Peter Downey), a doctor who seems to be doing quite well for himself. Perhaps he can help her out? After a few unreturned phone calls, Margaret decides to stop by the office and weedles an invitation from the doctor to an upcoming house party.  Margaret has hopes that one of the guests may have something for Margaret, but the party is cancelled.  Or is it?  Margaret decides to drop by the house, and…

Issues of class, race, and personal responsibility are raised in the pursuit of an answer to the question of whether we surrender to or make our own fate.  Is Margaret’s life - no doubt a hard one - the result of things out of her control or from her displayed tendency to shoot off her mouth and alienate those around her? Could she have made other, better choices in building a life for her and her daughter or did circumstances really prevent that?  

Don’t expect any answers but sit back and enjoy the premise, the crackerjack script, and the spot-on performances of a very strong cast.  The aforementioned cast is rounded out by Liz Rogers-Beckley as the doctor’s wife and Graham Narwhal as the Dollar Store manager and bingo-playing neighbor. I hope one doesn’t have to have been born or raised on the east coast to appreciate how well this group of actors does in capturing the personalities, physicality and vocal intonations of “Southies”, the blue collar denizens of South Boston. I’ve met these people. Hell, some of them are relatives or family friends. Sandra Ish’s brassy and ballsy “Jean” actually elicited a shudder of recognition from me.  That’s good acting and good direction (by Argo Thompson.).

Kimberly Kalamber, Sandra Ish, Graham Narwahl

One wouldn’t think the premise would lead to much humor, but there are plenty of laughs in this show. Yes, the humor is dark, as comedy usually is that comes from desperation, and yes, a laugh may be quickly followed by a slight pang of remorse as you realize the sadness behind the humor, but give credit to writer David Lindsay-Abaire and to this production for giving you something to really think about after the stage goes dark.  

Kimberly Kalember, Carla  Spindt, Sandra Ish 

The show is playing in the Carston Cabaret space of the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. A 99- seat space with chairs and cocktail tables interspersed throughout the room, it’s the right size room for this show.  A character study like Good People would be lost on a cavernous stage and the limitations of the space are somewhat overcome with a simple dual-set design (by David Wright) and the use of projections. I found the use of “Google Earth” projections and slides an effective way to impart a sense of place, distance and travel, though I found the omnipresent Google trademark and copyright notice a bit annoying.  

An award-winning script, a talented cast, and an ambitious and focused theatre company come together to bring local audiences a quality production of a very interesting show. Hopefully, Good People is a harbinger of good things to come from the latest entrant in the Sonoma County theatre scene. 

Good People

Presented by Left Edge Theatre

through September 19

Fri/Sat @ 8pm  Sat 9/18 @ 4pm

Wells Fargo Center for the Arts
Carston Cabaret
50 Mark West Springs Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

(707) 546-3600

www.leftedgetheatre.com

Photos courtesy of Left Edge Theatre

Live Theater Reviews by harry Duke