2nd Story opening new performance space with ‘Lobby Hero’
'The shows downstairs are for the “connoisseur.”'
Ed Shea wears a lot of hats at his 2nd Story Theatre in Warren. His latest is that of contractor. That’s because he’s spent the summer overseeing the construction of a new 70-seat performance space in the basement of 2nd Story’s Market Street home. The seats were to go in a couple of days ago, as an army of workers added the finishing touches for Friday’s opening of Kenneth Lonergan’s “Lobby Hero.”
“If there are more than two pickup trucks in the parking lot, I know we’re hemorrhaging money,” Shea said the other day.
The set for the show, Trevor Elliott’s realistic re-creation of a Manhattan apartment building lobby, was loaded in last weekend and comes within a couple of feet of the new theater’s 18-foot ceiling.
Shea said he wanted to go with a show with a full-blown set for his first offering to dispel any notion that the new space is a limited black box. Workers ended up taking out a couple of basement walls to create wings where scenery can be loaded on and off stage, making for a much more flexible space than Shea first envisioned.
And he wanted patrons to know that shows in the new downstairs space are for hard-core theater fans.
Lonergan’s 2001 play follows a twentysomething security guard who spends his life “just spinning his wheels,” said Shea. Joining him are two cops, a rising star in the department on his way to a gold shield, and his 22-year-old female partner.
But Jeff, the guard, is faced with a moral dilemma when his overbearing boss confides in him that he has been asked to lie to provide an alibi for his brother, who has been accused of a serious crime.
Jeff doesn’t know what to do. But over the course of the play, he gains enough strength and self-knowledge to make the right decision.
“It’s a fascinating play,” said Shea, “the perfect example of what I want to do downstairs. It requires that you pay attention. You need to be immersed in it.”
The plays in the upstairs theater are chosen to appeal to both avid fans as well as occasional theatergoers, said Shea, whereas shows downstairs are for the “connoisseur.”
“Lobby Hero” will satisfy devotees, he said. “They can just sink into those seats and get into the mind of the character. He’s someone we can all relate to. We’ve all been in that situation.”
“Lobby Hero” will be followed Oct. 25 by Stephen Karam’s “Sons of the Prophet,” a dark comedy about a member of a close-knit Lebanese family who takes a job he hates just to get medical coverage for his ailing relatives. The play was a 2012 Pulitzer finalist.
Shea staged Karam’s “Speech and Debate” upstairs several years ago. That early play by the Brown grad is about three teens and their attempts to expose a drama teacher who preys on his male students.
But “Sons” is a much more mature play, said Shea, with the kind of offbeat humor that reminds him of Christopher Durang. The father of the family was killed when he swerved to avoid a fake deer placed in the road by teenage pranksters.
Meanwhile, the upstairs theater opens Sept. 27 with Brian Friel’s haunting memory play, “Dancing at Lughnasa.” That will be followed in mid-November by “St. Joan,” George Bernard Shaw’s look at the life of Joan of Arc, the French peasant girl whose inner voices led her to challenge the power of church and state.
At the same time, 2nd Story will be staging in November William Gibson’s one-woman tour de force, “Golda’s Balcony,” at Bristol’s historic statehouse. The play chronicles the life of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
BY CHANNING GRAY
Journal Arts Writer
via the Providence Journal