‘Is he, is she good people?’

What is it that makes the upcoming Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community Theatre production of “Good People” by David Lindsay-Abaire, directed by Peter Hornbostel, extraordinary?

First it is the play. No single line is ambiguous; the basic action in each scene is straightforward, and yet… With each scene the assumptions we have made about the characters, about their relationships, is challenged and then challenged again.

Is this a play about class? About race? About moving on or being stuck? About luck? About poverty? It is about all these things in an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of character and meaning.

Courtesy photo
Maureen Day, Erin Platt, Bob Stockmaster, and Stephanie Mastri in the RAAC Community Theatre’s production of the Tony-nominated play “Good People” by David Lindsay-Abaire.

On the surface, the play is about Margie (Stephanie Mastri), a single mom with a disabled daughter stuck in a declining Irish-American working class neighborhood in Boston (Southie) with few expectations for a better life. What keeps Margie’s prospects — and the play — from feeling dismal is the camaraderie of Margie, her landlady (Maureen Day), and her best friend, Jean (Erin Platt). The three have a non-stop, now serious, now comic, now supportive, now insulting conversation that always circles back to how to make ends meet.

It’s also about Mike (Hugh Hill), a one-time boyfriend of Margie’s. He’s the one who made it out of Southie, graduated from med school and married his professor’s Georgetown daughter (Gail Kitch). Now he’s a fertility specialist, living the good life in a wealthy Boston suburb. Margie ventures across the gulf that exists between their lives to ask Mike for a job. But as this complicated relationship unfolds, it turns out that there is much more at stake.

Throughout the play, the question is asked, directly or implicitly, “Is he, is she good people?” For most of the characters, our confidence in the answer — positive or negative — is evanescent. The exception is Stevie, Margie’s former Dollar Store boss (Bob Stockmaster). Stevie is from Southie, but he’s made his peace with Southie and he’s made his peace with himself.

This is a play that requires a superb cast to portray the subtleties and dimensions of characters that could easily fall into caricature. Actors also must bring out the humor and sensitivity in the roles that make the play, ultimately, a celebration of human resiliency and the triumph of hope in spite of experience. Under the expert direction of Peter Hornbostel, this ensemble cast does a magnificent job.

Good People, $15, March 24, 30, and 31 at 8 p.m. at the RAAC Theatre, 310 Gay Street, Washington, Virginia. Reservations a www.raac.org, click Theatre or, if no internet, call 800-695-6075.