Probationary Theater’s next production touches on two areas that will be familiar to most expats here ― moving on from one’s hometown, and the suspicion brought by success being as prevalent in Korea as anywhere.
Such is the case with David Lindsay-Abaire’s Tony Award-winning “Good People,” a character-driven comedy set in the town where the playwright was raised, which follows a woman from a poor neighborhood as she tracks down a former neighbor who moved on to success.
The play particularly looks fondly on the people he left behind.
“He wrote it as a thank you to his hometown, which is Southie ― South Boston,” said director Stephen Glaspie. “He wanted to find a way to say thank you to the people who helped him get out of a bad situation and become who he is.
|Stephanie Ann Foster plays Dottie and Susan Morgan plays Jean, two ladies from South Boston, in Probationary Theater’s production of “Good People.” (Liam Mitchinson)|
“What’s nice about it is that it’s not just a comedy, but I hope it will have people thinking, and it’s also got those tender more dramatic moments in it as well.”
The play is fairly new, being first performed in New York in 2011. While this means it lacks the familiarity that draws some audiences, Glaspie believes its contemporary feel makes the characters easy to sympathize with, something his own upbringing also helped with.
“I worked in the restaurant industry and knew a lot of women just like these women, and I helped them build the characters around what I understood. It’s kind of my thank you, too. Because I came from a small town, grew up on food stamps for a short time, and was able to find a way to go off to college, and now feel like I’m making something of myself over here and enjoying the work.”
As you might expect for a homage to a hometown, the play has a lot of local flavor. Glaspie had second thoughts about rooting the play so heavily in a particular part of the U.S. for his production, but in the end decided to keep the Boston accent and slang.
“Initially I wanted it to have a universal appeal and not give the impression that this only happens in Boston, but the cast came in with such great accents, and hearing it that way I thought it needs to be done that way.”
But while Lindsay-Abaire won plaudits for his realistic South-Boston script, Glaspie says the language is not too parochial, and the message is something everyone can relate to.
“I talk to people from various countries about these stories of these people and they all say they know somebody like that so I think it’s a very universal show,” he said.
“You really see both aspects. You see a group of people who have been trapped by their circumstances in the projects and then you also see a case of a man who worked his butt off and got out.
“And even though he was able to get out, the people back home now question if he’s not the same person and it’s like the double-edged sword ― you grow up with nothing and find success but then everybody that hasn’t done it wants to chastise and judge you.”
The message, Glaspie says, is that success is not the be-all and end-all of life.
“Really what David Lindsay-Abaire wanted was for the audience to constantly be changing who they thought was good in the show, because everybody has some good in them but does some bad things,” he said.
“He constantly wanted people to be changing their perception of what was good, and trying to define good for themselves, because we all have a different definition of what we think makes us good, or what makes good people.”
“Good People” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. until Feb. 3 at White Box Theater near Hyochang Park.
Korean subtitles will be shown and the play includes strong language. Tickets are 15,000 won.
For more information, booking and directions, visit www.probationarytheatre.com
By Paul Kerry (firstname.lastname@example.org