2nd Story’s ‘Lobby Hero’ A Winner
"There's a lot of theater out there right now, but none more rewarding than 'Lobby Hero,' a smart, funny play, with a lot of heart."
There are all kinds of reasons to see 2nd Story Theatre’s season opener. But you can start with a sharp new performance space, and follow that up with a terrific play and a knockout performance by 24-year-old Jeff Church, who’s just plain brilliant.
The theater spent the summer creating a new 70-seat theater in its Market Street home, where it kicked off its season over the weekend with Kenneth Lonergan’s “Lobby Hero,” a wonderful, compact play about a loser of a security guard who — faced with a tough decision — does the right thing.
The show employs a cast of four, strong actors all. But Church, who plays Jeff, the dead-end guard, carries the show with impeccable timing and a knack for turning empty space into moments of riveting theater.
Church, who has been in a number of 2nd Story productions of late, has always seemed a natural. But he has blossomed into a serious talent in this show, an actor who proves a master of the subtle gesture and understated comedy.
We meet Jeff at his station in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment complex, where he is being hounded by his demanding boss William, captain of the security team. Enter two of New York’s finest — Bill, who slips into the building now and again for a little action with a socialite, and his rookie sidekick, Dawn, who takes nothing but abuse from her chauvinist partner.
But Jeff has eyes for Dawn, and his efforts to win her over make for some of the funniest, most engaging theater I’ve seen in a long time. The dialogue sparkles, and Church is amazing, the way he breathes life into his lines.
And just as impressive is Ara Boghigian’s Bill, a real pig, who comes down hard on Jeff for suggesting that his frequent stops at the complex might not be on the up and up, and for reminding Dawn that she doesn’t count.
If the play just stuck to its sizzling dialogue it would be worth the price of admission. But there is a serious thread running through it. William confesses that his troubled brother has been accused of a serious crime, and that he has agreed to lie for him to provide an alibi.
That’s when Jeff, after wrestling with his conscience, does the stand-up thing. Interestingly, the fallout from his actions is kind of murky, sort of like real life.
Joining Church and Boghigian, are Valerie Westgate as Dawn, who eventually finds her voice and stands up to her partner, and Marlon Carey, a 2nd Story newcomer, who is fine as William, except for a rapid-fire delivery that could have been dialed back a notch or two.
As for the new theater, it’s intimate, but has plenty of breathing room with an 18-foot ceiling. Once again, Trevor Elliott has come through with a simple but handsome set, capturing the essence of a slick Manhattan apartment building lobby with glass doors and an elevator.
There’s a lot of theater out there right now, but none more rewarding than “Lobby Hero,” a smart, funny play, with a lot of heart.
BY CHANNING GRAY
Journal Arts Writer
via the Providence Journal