Fulton looks for the best in 'Good People'
By Tom Knapp, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
In an oft-repeated scene, Margie Walsh tells the story of how a single piece of brittle candy some six months back cost her a job today.
It's funny, in an ironic sort of way. It's also a little painful to watch, as Margie (pronounced with a hard "g") bites her way through the brief monologue with bitter remorse that her life hasn't turned out any better, and that something so small in the grand scope of a life can have such devastating and long-reaching effects.
Margie, the lead character in David Lindsay-Abaire's play "Good People," struggles to get by in the largely Irish, blue-collar neighborhood in South Boston known as Southie. Proud but desperate, she pins new hope on the coattails of an old flame, Mike, who shares her impoverished roots but found a path to prosperity.
Fortunately for Margie, Mike feels a little guilty about his success and tries to help out the old neighborhood as much as he can.
"Most of his childhood friends are either dead or in prison," says Dan Olmsted, the actor portraying Mike in the Fulton Theatre production that opens Tuesday.
"My character is a doctor -- a reproductive endocrinologist," Olmsted says. "But he grew up in Southie. He grew up in the projects, and it's a tough area. The survival rate, let alone the chances for success for young men, has traditionally been pretty small in that area -- certainly when he was growing up in the early '60s.
"He's giving back."
Olmsted shares only a smidge of Mike's Irish bloodline, he says, but it wasn't too hard to find the character.
"I grew up in the same period of history, and with a similar, racially charged atmosphere," Olmsted, a native of the New Jersey shore, says.
"And, in a lot of ways, most major urban centers have similar dynamics going on. ... I think the story is universal."
"Good People," which opened on Broadway in 2011, was nominated for a Tony Award for best play and earned the original Margie, Frances McDormand, a Tony for best leading actress. The playwright, Lindsay-Abaire, won a Pulitzer in 2007 for his play "Rabbit Hole," which also received several Tony nominations.
The Fulton is partnering with Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, where "Good People" is scheduled to open after the final Fulton performance Feb. 17.
Olmsted believes the tale about class struggles and economic hardships will resonate with audiences.
"I think that's sort of a universal aspect of humanity," he says. "I think it will resonate regardless of the economy. We can all think of one or two moments in our lives where, if things had just gone in a different direction, our future would have been different."
The play is a comedy, he stresses, although it has a serious dramatic root.
"It's a wonderful play, it really is. It's brutally honest, yet funny," Olmsted says.
"A lot of it has to do with how the lead character, Margie Walsh, deals with her reality," he says. "Margie has a wonderful sense of humor, and her friends are characters."
Margie in this production is played by Julie Czarnecki, who performed in "God of Carnage" at the Fulton last season.
This is Olmsted's Fulton debut, although he has numerous credits -- including Salieri in "Amadeus" -- at Walnut Street.
"There's a good chance that this will end up as one of the classics," he says of "Good People."
"It's obviously too soon to tell. It's a very new play. But it's extremely well-written, and the character of Margie Walsh is an exquisite and strong female lead character. She stands out."
"Good People" opens with a pay-what-you-want preview at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Fulton Opera House, 12 N. Prince St. For a complete schedule of showtimes and ticket prices, call 397-7425 or visit thefulton.org.