Following the success of the Hollywood adaptation of his previous play Rabbit Hole, acclaimed American playwright David Lindsay-Abaire again shines a light on the struggle against despair in Good People.
The Tony-nominated play, which has already played Broadway with Frances McDormand and Tate Donovan in the lead roles, now receives its Australian premiere, with Melbourne’s Red Stitch continuing its knack for securing Australia-first runs for acclaimed overseas works.
In Good People, Boston single mother Margie Walsh is fired from her job as a cashier at a dollar store. Already living from pay cheque to pay cheque, it’s a stroke of bad luck that threatens to break her.
With soaring unemployment figures constantly in the news, it seems the play’s story is especially timely, something Russian-born supporting actress Olga Makeeva acknowledged.
“I think so. Australia’s better than America in that we have Medicare. Poor people in America don’t even have that much support, so when they lose their jobs, it’s much harder,” she said.
“Margie is a single mother with a disabled daughter, and losing her job means she can’t pay rent or afford to buy medicine for her daughter.”
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Margie finds herself on the doorstep of a business-owning ex-boyfriend, pleading with him to employ her.
Makeeva’s character, Margie’s landlady Dottie, features in another subplot that illustrates the scale of the downturn — her unemployed son shows up needing a place to stay but without money for rent, and Dottie tries to place him with Margie.
“It’s a sad story, but what’s incredible is that the characters are able to laugh and make jokes through all this, while they’re struggling to survive,” Makeeva said.
“They don’t have time to mourn or cry. They have to survive, and laughing helps them get through it.
“I spent 33 years in Russia, and I’d say it’s very much like that there. We went through many difficult times, and keeping a sense of humour helped us to survive.”
After migrating to Australia in 1999, Makeeva worked at Red Stitch as an assistant director and designed costumes for the company before joining as an ensemble member in 2010.
She still lends a hand in her previous departments, though.
“Red Stitch is unique, because actors not only act but do other things. My department is costumes, because I can sew and adjust costumes. We’re all multi-skillful, and it’s full-on, full-time work.”
INFO: Good People, Red Stitch Actor’s Theatre, February 3 – March 3. www.redstitch.net
PICTURED: Makeeva (second from left) with her co-stars.