At first, this relatively new (2011) play by David Lindsay-Abaire reminded me of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. The main character, Margie, is a single mother that never graduated from high school. She is barely making ends meet with her cashier job in South Boston when she gets fired due to circumstances beyond her control. Again.
But as Margie desperately looks for another job, and as we learn more about her situation, her past and her world, the story and themes become more complicated. Margie blames her misfortune on her history of being too nice but what does it mean to be “nice,” anyway? The play offers many thought-provoking answers to that question.
Constance Macy’s portrayal of Margie is exquisite. Details such as her laugh, her accent, the way she stands, the way she wields her bingo marker, even the roots showing in her dyed hair — all of these help to convey who Margie is, but it is Macy herself that brings to life Margie’s fully human mix of heart and vulnerability.
Under Mark Cuddy’s direction, the whole cast offers exceptionally nuanced work. Sean Patrick Reilly is Mike, a former Southie classmate of Margie’s that got out and now has a successful career as a doctor and a beautiful wife, Kate (Nicole Lewis). He's beginning to question his presentation of himself as someone out of an Upton Sinclair novel. Dee Pelletier is Jean, Margie’s mouthy but supportive friend. Peggy Cosgrave is Dottie, Margie’s crafty (in more ways than one) landlady.
The Indiana Repertory Theatre's production includes a wealth of strong design elements, including a beautiful Irish-flavored sound design by Lindsay Jones and an intriguing, puzzle-like set designed by Jo Winiarski.