Thoughts & Musings

The Good, Bad and the Other

"This inaugural show in 2nd Story’s new Downstairs theater is phenomenal, an­other sparkling diamond in 2nd Story’s substantial jewel case of theatrical gems".

by Dave Christner, Newport Mercury
  • 18th September 201318/09/13
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Many police vehicles are still black and white; this is clearly a symbol of the distinction between right and wrong, good and evil. In the black and white world of law enforcement, there is no in between. But lately, even here in the Ocean State, where state troopers drive gray vehicles, color distinction is becoming more problematic. Gray is the color that seems to be in vogue, and I can’t help but wonder if this new color is somewhat symptomatic of a closer look at the nature of good and evil and the fuzzy areas that occupy the space between the extremes represented black and white.

2nd Story Theatre’s exhilarating pro­duction of Kenneth Lonergan’s “Lobby Hero” takes on this weighty thesis with such humor and humility that you hardly are aware of the moral battle be­ing fought by a quarter of the arresting characters inhabiting the environs of Warren in quite some time.

Take Jeff (Jeff Church), an undisci­plined but well-intentioned young man looking for a purpose in life and trying to live up to the high standards of his he­roic father. After six meandering years, he finally seems to have his life back on track working as a third shift security guard in a New York high-rise.

Jeff ’s supervisor William (Marlon Carey) is highly disciplined and pre­cise; he does everything by the book. There is no room for arbitration in mat­ters of morality in William’s world. He takes a liking to Jeff and sees in him some “potential,” if only he will apply himself. William sees Jeff nightly while making his rounds.

Add to the cast two NYC police offi­cers: Bill (Ara Boghigian), a highly dec­orated veteran of the force and his part­ner, Dawn (Valerie Westgate) a rookie on the force trying to earn her stripes so she can become a force for good in the tough streets of New York.

A huge moral dilemma is posed when William’s brother is alleged to have been involved in a hideous crime. This dilemma serves as the catalyst for a great deal of self-examination and shows the fluidity of morals in the con­text of family and modernity. Each of the characters wants to do the “right thing” in their private and professional lives, but in Lonergan’s script, identify­ing right from wrong is no simple task.

What is simple and straightforward is the dexterity and natural humor with which Director Ed Shea’s per­fectly cast characters make Lonergan’s script “sing.” Not only is the dialogue delivered with cruise missile preci­sion, but emotions are demonstrated by pauses, subtle facial expressions, and body language.

Church is nothing short of amaz­ing whether delivering an understated one-liner or trying to lie his way out of a tight spot. His worldview is as convo­luted as it is hilarious. Westgate is just as impressive as the naïve rookie cop, blindly trusting in her superior to show her the way in a wayward world. Her scenes with Church are marvelous for their humor and humanity. Carey and Boghigian too are dead-solid perfect in their roles as the guys whose moral ground should be solid, more or less. And it is, more or less — which is for you to find out.

Trevor Elliott’s stark set of a non­descript lobby serves the play’s out­ward simplicity well. But what goes on in the street beyond the lobby’s glass doors and on the upper floors of the building served by the elevator re­mains clandestine. “Lobby Hero” is a perfect example of modern theater at its best, combining a great script, compelling characters, spot-on directing, intelligent themes, and performances that are the equal of anything you’ll see in New York or LA. This inaugural show in 2nd Story’s new Downstairs theater is phenomenal, an­other sparkling diamond in 2nd Story’s substantial jewel case of theatrical gems.

Dave Christner is a South County playwright and novelist.

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