Theater Notebook: Massachusetts ex-pats team up for Oceanside Theatre Company’s ‘Good People’
First-time director Sandy Campbell and show star Susan Clausen talk about their affection for the David Lindsay-Abaire play and its “Southie” setting
Six years ago, Ted Leib and Susan Clausen co-starred in David Lindsay-Abaire’s play “Good People” at Scripps Ranch Theatre.
This month, they’re returning to the same play at Oceanside Theatre Company, where Leib is artistic director. Clausen has moved up from the secondary character of Jean to the lead role of Margie, and Leib will reprise the role of Mike, the play’s lead male character.
Set in South Boston — where the playwright grew up — the 2011 play is the story of Margie, a nice but impoverished dollar-store worker who struggles to support herself and her special-needs adult daughter. When she loses her job, she reaches out for help to Mike, her high school ex-boyfriend, who left the neighborhood and became a successful doctor. As she pressures him to help out an old friend, she begins spilling secrets from his past.
Clausen said the role of Margie is “close to her heart” because she grew up in Dedham, Mass., about 10 miles from where the play takes place. And veteran San Diego actor Sandy Campbell, who hails from the Boston area, is making her directing debut with “Good People.” The two women recently did interviews about the play and their affection for its unique “Southie” setting.
Q: Sandy, what interests you about this play as a director?
A: David Lindsay-Abaire is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and it shows. “Good People” is an extraordinarily well-written play. It’s about life-altering choices and who actually gets the opportunity to make them. The characters strike us as very real, very flawed and not always likable, but they are trying their best to be “good” people. This play is about class, economic pressures, and race — big ideas, but you’d never know it, because it is so funny.
Q: What do you see as the particular challenges in directing these characters?
A: Because the characters in the play are so well-drawn, it’s made easier, but the most important thing is to avoid them falling into caricature. This is a very realistic play and the acting and the staging must reflect that — real emotion, real motivations and real interactions.
Q: What do you want the audience to take away from the experience?
A: I would like the audience to continue to talk and think about this play on the way home. What really makes a good person, what will happen next to these characters, who was right and who was wrong … and how nice it was to have an evening of laughter.
Q: How important is the setting to the play?
A: The play is set in South Boston where David Lindsay-Abaire grew up. It is almost a character itself. South Boston is in the locals’ speech patterns, their jobs, their religion, their pride and their prejudice. It is a part of them.
Q: Susan, what attracted you to this play as an actor?
A: I grew up in the suburbs of Boston — not right in Southie, where “Good People” takes place, but only about 10 miles away. So the characters and dynamics of this play are familiar to me — and are something I am curious about. “Good People” also really examines the topic of choice — if everyone has the same choices to make in life and how we judge those choices in others. I think that topic informs a majority of important conversations we have societally.
Q: What drew you to your character of Margie and how do you relate to her?
A: Margie is strong and works hard to provide for herself and her daughter. She also cares deeply for her friends. I connect very personally to both of those two truths. She is also imperfect, yet strives to find humor wherever she can and maintain an optimistic perspective. So though my personal background and life situation is quite different from the character Margie, there are a lot of personal traits where I have common ground with Margie. Finding common ground with people who are different than I am is something I try to do in my day-to-day life. And it is where I start as I explore a character onstage.
“Good People” opens May 13 at the Brooks Theatre, 217 N. Coast Highway in Oceanside. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through May 28. Tickets are $30 to $45. OTC is also offering a military matinee at 2 p.m. May 14, with two free tickets for military members with ID. Visit oceansidetheatre.org.
Kragen writes about theater for The San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at email@example.com.
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