There’s something wonderfully intimate about Good With People. Held in Performance Works NW’s warehouse-like space, the set is mostly just a hotel reception desk, a wooden table and chairs, and the theater’s off-stage kitchen.
Helen (Devon Allen) owns a hotel in the strange Scottish town Helensburgh, which hosts seaside tourism, a nuclear weapons facility and a peace camp. Evan (Matt DiBiasio) grew up on the nuclear base and went to school with Helen’s son, whom he brutally bullied. When he returns to his hometown for a visit, Evan unwittingly books a room at Helen’s inn. Not surprisingly, they don’t get along.
Less than an hour long, it’s an oddity of a play. The only real plot point is when Evan checks in. The rest of the script is mostly arguing—Helen wants Evan to repent for what he did to her son, and Evan accuses Helen of being stuck in the past. That tension is belabored in such a way that you feel it will eventually amount to some kind of point or moral. But the play’s vague resolution doesn’t seem in favor of one point of view over the other. Somehow, that’s more hopeful—it makes it feel like things aren’t that serious.
Still, in the hands of production company Our Shoes Are Red, Good With People isn’t exactly naturalistic. The play starts with a monologue in which Helen tells the audience about Evan’s arrival at her hotel. Allen stands in a spotlight at the front of the stage while DiBiasio waits in the background with his back to the audience. As the monologue wraps up, he walks over to the desk and rings the service bell, cueing Allen to snap into the scene.
The constant arguing could easily feel very tedious. Evan picks apart everything Helen says, and the duo often fumble with their Scottish accents. But the play manages to have a sense of humor, which Allen in particular plays up in a way that stands out from the script’s stark lack of dramatism, and occasionally feels overdone. But it also sort of works, injecting some theatrical levity into what could be banal.
Good With People has an almost abrupt, fittingly anticlimactic ending: Evan checks out of his room. Helen offers to walk with him out of the hotel.
SEE IT. Good With People is at Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave., ourshoesarered.org. 8 pm Thursday-Sunday through June 24. $15-$10.