By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Jan 24, 2015 at 11:16 AM

The curtain rises! Lust! Treachery! Deep loyalties! Clashes of classes! Fury! Doubt! Cheating!

It sounds like Shakespeare, but it isn’t.

It is really "Good People," the David Lindsay-Abaire production that opened Friday night at the Milwaukee Rep.

Guided with a slow and steady hand by Kate Buckley, "Good People" is the story of where we all call home, how we either get out or get stranded and how we are generally powerless to do anything about either one.

The conductor on this train through South Boston is Margie (hard "G"), a middle aged single mother with a grown child who was born prematurely and has the mind of a little child. The Rep’s Laura Gordon gives a performance for the ages as the beleaguered Margie.

Margie loses her job at a discount store because she is always late. The guy firing her is the son of one of Margie’s friends. She begs and pleads and tries emotional blackmail to stave off this insult, but nothing works. As she gives in, we see that she knew deep down that none of her tactics would work. The actual firing is a confirmation that all of the arrows in her quiver have no feathers, so they can’t even fly through the air.

Margie’s closest compatriots are her landlady, Dottie (Laura T. Fisher), and Jean (Tami Workentin), a no-holds-barred hotbed of schemes to make things right in the life of her friend. The three women gather about a kitchen table and are bound by serious devotion to parish bingo games and the slim hope of winning a few dollars.

Jean hits on the idea of Margie paying a visit to Michael, a Southie who escaped and who is now a doctor downtown. Margie calls, but none of her calls get through so she marches into Michael’s office, unbidden.

There is history between these two, more than just a spot on a map. Southies are fiercely put upon and just as fiercely loyal to their home turf. Michael is one of those who escaped, and he’s now a fertility doctor.

Margie accuses him of becoming "lace curtain," a spiteful phrase for anyone who once was, but who now isn’t, "shanty Irish." Michael, perhaps feeling this is a little too close for comfort, denies it and ends up inviting Margie to his wealthy suburban home for a birthday party.

The second act of the play opens in Michael’s home with his strong-willed wife, Kate (Jennifer Latimore), who is black.

With the South Boston reputation and history of bitter and angry racial struggle, it would have been easy for Lindsay-Abaire to let this play meander into a fiery racial identification war. But he doesn’t take the easy way out.

He is true to his examination of class struggle – both the struggle to change classes and the struggle to stay true to your class.

I don’t want to give away the fury of the second act, but it takes what had been a funny and poignant ride through life’s problems into a pit filled with the twin vipers of truth and lies.

Gordon and Michael Elich, who plays Michael, are a spectacular couple on this stage. One flaunts history; the other denies it. One relishes the truth; the other creates embellishment. One has no fear; the other is full of fears.

Gordon is, in short, spectacular. If you think about it, her character is everything you could ever want in a woman. She is pretty. She is dedicated. She is selfless. She may not read books, but she has learned a lot from her neighborhood. There is nothing wasted in Gordon’s performance. Her every step, her every self-conscious bend of the knees, her every shy smile as the real truth comes out, are full of purpose.

Milwaukee's own Workentin is perfect as both the foil and the conscience of Margie. With a foul mouth and a fierce determination to protect Margie, we all wish we could have a friend like Jean. Workentin continues to make Milwaukee proud.

Kevin Depinet, who did the scenic design, and Jason Fassl, who designed the lighting, combined to create a series of incredibly unique and fitting sets.

Buckley also deserves credit for keeping characters that could easily have become cliches as unique as they are. Not for a moment did I doubt that these were real people with real issues, and the honor in this play is that nobody tied it up in a ribbon at the end and we all lived happily ever after.

"Good People" runs through Feb. 15 and information on tickets and showtimes is available at here.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.