‘Good People’ reading explores social class, struggles with recession

Contributing writerJune 6, 2014 

This weekend, Olympia Little Theatre tackles social class and economic struggle, presenting a staged reading of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People.”

“It’s about people who are living from paycheck to paycheck and struggling to put food on the table and trying to catch up with unpaid bills,” director Jim Patrick said. “With what we are still going through with the recession that started back in 2007, I thought it would ring some chimes. It did for me.”

Patrick grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood in Berkeley, California, and he said Lindsay-Abaire’s depiction of life in South Boston felt familiar. He also is a fan of Frances McDormand, who won a 2012 Tony for her role as Margie, a struggling single mother who seeks help from a now-wealthy former boyfriend.

Patrick proposed “Good People” as a full-scale production, but said he wasn’t disappointed that the company chose to do a reading instead. The readings allow the theater to present shows that might not draw a large enough audience for a multiweek run — and to give audiences a chance to see edgier productions.

“As a director, I’m a minimalist,” he said. “I’m all about the story. If I can tell it without all of the accoutrements of a flashy set and costumes and just have people inhabit their characters and tell the story, I’m all for that.”

Patrick directed another reading, of Neil LaBute’s “Reasons to be Pretty,” in January. “I was overwhelmed by the response,” he said.

That play, which explores body image, includes so much profanity that he feared audiences would walk out, but no one did. “They stayed,” he said. “They were involved.”

“It was about 90 percent full, and a lot of the tickets were purchased by our regular season ticketholders,” theater board president Toni Holm said. “People really enjoyed it, and I think this has given people a chance to explore plays they might otherwise not get to see.”

The readings also provide an advantage for actors, Patrick said.

“A lot of actors at the community theater level get so wrapped up in learning lines that they don’t learn their characters,” he said. “I can have my actors focus on finding out who their characters are and what the story is about. Then interesting things happen.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen, and for a director, that’s great,” he said. “I don’t want to see the same performance every time.” ‘Good People’

What: Olympia Little Theatre presents a staged reading of David Lindsay-Abaire’s dramatic comedy about a single mother living in South Boston who loses her job and seeks help from her high school boyfriend, who became a doctor and escaped from the working-class neighborhood.

When: 7:55 p.m. Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday

Where: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia

Tickets: $5 at at the door or at olympialittletheatre.org

More information: 360-786-9484 or olympialittletheatre.org

Also: The play includes profanity and mature themes, so it is recommended for teens and older.

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