A story of possession, magic and love, “Good Goods” has made its world debut on the Yale stage under the direction of Drama Desk Award nominee Tina Landau ’84.
“Good Goods,” conceived by playwright Christina Anderson DRA ’11, premiered Feb. 3 at the Yale Repertory Theatre. Anderson said she started writing “Good Goods” as a second year student at Yale’s School of Drama as part of a class assignment to write a play in 48 hours about the idea of possession.
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Anderson said that in consulting a dictionary, she discovered six meanings of the word and set out to capture all six in her play. With its focus on Black American history and setting in a general store called Good Goods, the show deals with ownership of material items as well as with notions of self-possession and spiritual possession.
In setting the play in a small Southern town that cannot be visited or found on a map, Anderson said she was inspired by her own childhood visits to Asheville, N.C.
“When I was young, my family in Asheville would take me around, and I would see roads named after someone who had lived there,” Anderson said. “I was fascinated by the way that people there defined location — based on people, and not on maps.”
To construct a store onstage that could have existed in the mid-20th century, Anderson said she drew on her memories of the storefronts she saw during a visit to Uganda. She added that she wanted the town and its store to look as though it had been invaded.
Though race tensions are clear undercurrents in the show, Anderson said she did not give the play a specific time period or place setting, choosing instead to combine aspects of numerous periods in American history such that the issues of the times came together cohesively.
The show has only six characters: twins Patricia and Wire, the store owner Stacey Goods, his assistant Truth, Patricia’s newfound friend Sunny and Wayman, a factory worker with the ability to call spirits. The play begins as Stacey and Patricia, a comedy duo, return to their hometown — one to manage his family’s general store and the other to enlist a new performance partner. In the story’s 24-hour time span, the characters complicate each other’s lives with ulterior motives, supernatural occurrences and romantic entanglements.
As Landau said, the play is one of vulnerability, new beginnings and birth — “a combination of a William Inge play and a black Twilight Zone with some doses of Tyler Perry.”
De’andre Aziza (Patricia) said that while her character may appear conniving at first, Patricia’s greatest desire is simply to be adored.
“Others like to think I have ulterior motives, but at my character’s core, what drives her is love and the need to be loved in return,” Aziza said. “Although the love is somewhat romantic, it is more about the masses loving her, and never having to lose that love.”
Anderson said she hoped to accomplish three goals through the characters’ interweaving stories.
“I want [audiences] to go back, having understood three things. The first is how gender roles and gender identities play out. Second is the absolute magic of theater — varying scenarios are played out through the power of imagination, and of the play. Third, I hope they see the level of love that exists between all the characters through it all,” she said.
Aziza added that she hopes audience members will walk away realizing that love has no boundaries and is often the purest feeling that exists among people.
“The great thing about the play is that the different permutations of relationships leave you with not one, but many, things to talk about,” director Landau said. “It tries to not preach a lesson.”
“Good Goods” will run at the Yale Repertory Theatre through Feb. 25.