April 1, 2011
In a Broadway Role, Many Returns
By FELICIA R. LEE
New York Times
“Lace curtain Irish” is an acid-tipped verbal dart when it zips from the mouth of Frances McDormand’s character, Margie, and hits Tate Donovan, as Mike, in the Broadway play “Good People.” Margie, bitter and unemployed, is stuck in Southie, a hardscrabble Boston neighborhood. Mike, a doctor, has left both her and the neighborhood behind.
But Mr. Donovan, a versatile actor and lately a director, said that in his own Irish family “lace curtain” was no epithet, in spite of Margie’s insinuation that it signifies pretentiousness. The term, Mr. Donovan’s own father — a physician — told him, was happily in opposition to the “shanty Irish,” who were poor and uneducated.
“My father, just like my character, had to pull himself out of a really bad neighborhood,” Mr. Donovan, 47, explained recently at a hotel restaurant near the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, where the show is playing through May 29. Thin and lively, and looking younger than his age (“Even with the gray in my beard?” he wondered), he talked enthusiastically about a lengthy career in television and film and on the stage, and took special pleasure in describing his charged scenes opposite Ms. McDormand in “Good People,” David Lindsay-Abaire’s acclaimed play.
Mr. Donovan, who grew up in Tenafly, N.J., as the youngest of six children, called “Good People” a nice break from a year in which he has done nothing but direct. He was drawn to the play, he said, because it had something important to say about the widening gap between classes.
“I was blown away by the authenticity of it,” Mr. Donovan said. “It was really Irish and really funny and so up my alley.” Mike — or Mikey, as Ms. McDormand’s character quickly reminds him he once was called — is a complicated figure, at once confident and unwilling to examine his own actions. Still, Mr. Donovan said, “I liked him the first moment he opened his mouth…”