Accomplished Twin Cities actor Charla Marie Bailey is portraying a role in Good People at Lyric Arts, not altogether uncommon in social circumstance hereabouts. “I’m the only Black person in the play,” said Bailey.” After all, it’s a routine sight to see a White gathering with just that one specially accept African American in attendance. “I’m Kate,” she continues, “married to a White doctor who made it out of the slums of Boston.
She comes to our home and that’s where the meat lies. It’s just a good role; I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s a play about class, some racial stuff. I’m in the second act but that’s where things pick up. I have a small but meaty part.”
The ex, Margie, has brazened her way into Mike’s life and comes with considerable baggage — including his illegitimate offspring. “What I find interesting about this role is some of the similarities to myself,” said Bailey. “Kate is so strong that she is able to bite her tongue without biting it off. I’m also learning how to do this. When Kate says ‘Okay’ what is she really saying? She spends the evening with two people and finds out so much. But deep down, whose truth does she actually believe?
“I think people will wonder the same thing. Dare I say this? She’s a little uppity but doesn’t know it. I’ve been accused of this, because I speak ‘good’ English, but I’m just a product of my environment. You can take the girl out of Chicago, but you can’t take Chicago out of the girl!” explained Bailey.
The role is not without a challenge for her. “As Charla, I would not have allowed this woman to come into my home as a guest, stay as long as she did, antagonize my husband, and then take her side against him. I would have kicked her out.
“But Kate [is] patient, poised, eager to hear what stories Margaret has about her husband, play the perfect hostess, hides marital problems, and yet still wants to help her husband’s old female friend find a job. I think that’s why it feels so good to finally explode. It’s all of the built up tension Charla has because I’ve had to suppress it for an entire act. I would have dismissed her and gone to bed.”
It should prove interesting to go and see for yourself how the circumstance plays out. And there’s every reason to anticipate an engaging performance: Bailey, after all, has to her credit the Penumbra Theatre production of Amen Corner at the Guthrie directed by Lou Bellamy. She’s also worked at Pangea World Theater, Sha Cage’s renowned Mama Mosaic, and is a company member at Theatre Unbound where she is, again, the lone African American. “I’m okay with it,” says Bailey. She’d better be as a working professional in these parts. Bailey adds, though, “Naturally I’d like to see more of us on stage.”
David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People runs at Lyric Arts, 420 East Main Street in Anoka — March 20 – April 4. Tickets range from $16-$26. Box office: 763-422-1838.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.