photo by Creatista
From left, Mike (Tony Caprile), Margaret (Maria A. Caprile) and Kate (Carley Elizabeth Preston) disagree on what it takes to become wealthy in "Good People."

David Lindsay-Abaire was at the top of his game writing “Good People,” which feels profound and definitely deserves a better title. It opened on Broadway in March, 2011, receiving a Tony nomination for Best Play.

Boldly stepping into shoes reminiscent of Arthur Miller, Lindsay-Abaire has shaped a discourse on modern social values using the format of classic theater dialogue, debunking today's liberals who insist on equality in all things – particularly when it comes to our classless society.

The venerable Winding Road Theatre Ensemble, now into its 10th anniversary season, took the bait for this convincing drama and ran with it to bring us a scorching Act Two performed by Maria A. Caprile, Tony Caprile and Carley Elizabeth Preston that is the equal of any theater company in these parts.

You can count on leaving the show with a finer appreciation for the struggle of justifying one's own success in life, whether rich, poor or somewhere in between.

The playwright suggests that instead of believing poor people are just wealthy people with bad luck, what if poor people really are somewhat to blame for their inability to get any financial traction in life?

What if those rich people, who say they have worked hard and deserve all their wealth, also have a deep streak of arrogance? What if they actually do believe they are more deserving than anybody else – mainly becase they are willing to work harder than anybody else – especially all those other lazy kids in high school?

With a meticulous shading of phrases and pauses, Lindsay-Abaire is posing all the tough questions as working class Margaret (Maria A. Caprile), successful doctor Mike (Tony Caprile) and Mike's brilliant wife Kate (Preston) confront each other in that scathing second act.

Winding Road's director Glen Coffman, also gets the right slant time after time as his characters gain and lose and then gain charisma again, right before our eyes.

In supporting roles are Peg Peterson, Toni Press-Coffman and Josh Parra creating a blue collar atmosphere as friends from Margaret's desperate South Boston neighborhood.

Congratulations, also, to Winding Road for being willing to go with basic stage settings to get this play mounted at the Scoundrel & Scamp's studio theater, instead of tossing the whole project aside and doing a simpler show. For the audience, there is much to be gained here.

Act One is set into motion when Stevie (Parra) is forced to fire Margaret from her clerk job at the Dollar Store. Margaret has been late too many times.

But Margaret has an adult daughter who needs special care at home. Margaret can't afford to hire a “baby sitter,” so lots of times Margaret is late for work. Stevie knows that, but his boss doesn't care. Margaret has to go.

For these people in these times, the most meagre job can mean the difference between survival and destitution. Stevie knows that, too. Without work, Margret will be on the street. But Stevie can't lose his own job.

When he and Margaret see each other every week at bingo, she doesn't take the firing personally. It's life, straight no chaser. Margaraet's friends Jean (Press-Coffman) and Dottie (Peterson) aren't much help, though. They have their own problems.

Life from their point of view is one enormous obstacle after another, which they recount with considerable humor to keep each other's spirits up. That's when Margaret learns that Mike (Tony Caprile), a boy she knew from the neighborhood, has become a successful doctor in an upscale part of Boston.

It isn't even intermission yet and Margaret in on her way to reconnect with Mike.

Good People” runs through Nov. 18 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 16; at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at Scoundrel & Scamp Studio Theatre in The Historic Y, 738 N. Fifth Ave.

Tickets are $28 general admission, $25 seniors and military, $18 students with ID. For details and reservations, 401-3626, windingroadtheater.org

photo by Ryan Fagan
From left: Jonathan Heras, Rhonda Hallquist, Missie Scheffman, Christopher Moseley, Emily Gates, Roxanne Harley, and Tyler West. Laying down: Michael Woodson

For some reason, all the online reviews of “Death By Design” describe it as a “mash-up” of Noel Coward and Agatha Christie. Maybe they mean Coward's upscale wardrobe and manners combined with Agatha Christie's gaslight clever detectives.

Death By Design” is all that, but what's best for me is how the jokes feel as new as Netflix. Better yet, think of “Death By Design” as old-fangled theater kicked up with new-fangled punch lines. Or how it's like watching a fresh episode of an old favorite TV show.

Roberto Guajardo as director keeps all that clever dialogue zipping along. Rob Urbinati the playwright has tossed so many red herring into the plot you could cook up a pot of crime chowder in no time.

It's this pace that makes everything fun. No sooner is one distraction replaced by another, one eccentric character eclipsed by a bigger one, then all the fingers on stage are pointed in the opposite direction to identify the newest guilty transgressor.

So let yourself slip back nearly 100 years (this is the Noel Coward part) to oh-so-proper England in 1932 at the elegant country estate of successful playwright Edward Bennett (Christopher Moseley) and his gracefully dramatic wife Sorel (Missie Scheffman).

Looking after these two and getting all the best laughs are the unflappable maid Bridgit (Rhonda Hallquist) and quippy Jack the chauffeur (Jonathan Heras).

Stuffed shirt Walter the conservative politician (Michael Woodson) is the one nobody likes. He spends nearly half the play onstage as a dead person.

Stopping by to keep everyone guessing are Victoria (Roxanne Harley) the bohemian artist who loves to dance with her own paintings; Eric (Tyler West) the energetic socialist who never slows down; and mysterious Alice (Emily Gates) who never wears her glasses but can't see a thing without them.

We spend most of the first act getting to know all these personalities. Hallquist has a grand time spouting snappy observations and applying her sleuthing skills as an amateur detective. Curiously, she can also list the number of deadly poisons that one may grow in one's own garden.

Scheffman is wonderfully over the top and has her upscale moves down pat. We are convinced this Sorel would feel right at home riding in the most grand Duesenberg on wheels.

Getting right to the point of “Death By Design,” the death in question takes place in bright stagelight. Right after intermission we clearly see Alice fire a handgun point blank at Walter on the couch.

He looks dead enough, then we remember Alice's terrible eyesight. Bullet holes are found in the wall behind Walter' couch. One of the bullets is still warm. But Walter is definitely dead.

So...umm...who dun it? Act Two is just getting started.

"Death By Design" runs through Nov. 17, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays (also 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17), at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Tickets are $15 Thursdays,  $20 all others, with discounts available.

For further details and reservations, 327-4242, or visit livetheatreworkshop.org