A very good thing in a very small package…

            It played fewer than 55 performances as part of the Scotland Week segment of the 2013 Brits Off Broadway Festival, but the 55-minute Good With People left an impression that belies both those brief spans.

In its blink-of-an-eye running time, David Harrower’s two-character play deals with such hot-button issues as class differences, bullying, a sort of sexual therapy and, so help me, the community-impact of a nuclear-power defense plant…all this with but one straight-back chair on scene and in dialogue that’s stripped to its bare essentials.

Blythe Duff and Andrew Scott-Ramsay in a tense moment from "Good With People"

 Small-town hotel desk clerk Helen Hughes (Blythe Duff) whose relationship with her son was forever altered by a years-ago event, at first doesn’t recognize the guest with a room reservation as Evan Bold (Andrew Scott-Ramsay), who had instigated that event. As memories congeal and waver between recrimination and forgiveness, the two plumb emotional depths with clipped exchanges.

Directed with quiet intensity by George Perrin, Good With People is a serious play that’s also quite funny…or vice versa, depending on how you regard banter about stuff like why Evan came ‘home’ (his divorced parents are re-marrying) and why he was beat up but not killed in Pakistan: “…Christ, being buried here…coffin flown back, cortege through the streets…past the bloody school, no doubt. No way I was gong to get killed with that fate hanging over me.”

Ms. Duff and Mr. Scott-Ramsay are both exemplars of the less-is-more school of acting, which suits the play. Playwright Harrower, whose Blackbird was a searing gem, here is a master of few-word-phrases, every one of them weighted with sub-text and a pleasure to parse.


Blog, NY Theater, Off Broadway