2nd Story Theatre’s “Lobby Hero” is a Tough, Snappy Play

Sep 18, 2013

Valerie Westgate as Dawn and Jeff Church as Jeff in 2nd Story Theatre's “Lobby Hero.”
Credit Richard W. Dionne, Jr. / 2nd Story Theatre

2nd Story Theatre debuts its new 70-seat performing space this week with a play called “Lobby Hero” by New York writer Kenneth Lonergan.

Yeah, well, you see “hero” is not exactly the right word. On the other hand, maybe it is. Or it is sometimes. You get what I mean?

No, huh? Well, the strength of this very funny, charming, tough and potty-mouthed snappy play is that nothing is exactly as it seems. But it might be. Irony prevails in “Lobby Hero.”

Take just one utterance made by a rookie NYC cop, a female struggling in what is still a man’s world. Played with lovely vigor by Valerie Westgate the new cop says with an implied sigh, “I gotta do something. Just wish I could figure out what it is.”

There you are, folks. Playwright Lonergan gives you a quick look into the lives of all his four characters. And by extension, he’s talking about all of us.

As you might guess, “Lobby Hero” takes place in a Manhattan high rise. There, we find a 27-year-old duffus named Jeff. He’s the security guy on the overnight shift. Spends most of this time hiding behind a newspaper, trying to get some sleep.

Jeff’s a Navy veteran who got bounced from the fleet. For smoking pot. As he sees it, that was just his kind of bad luck. I’m the one they caught, he cries, in a pitch of self-pity.

Then there’s his boss, the Captain, who sees himself as a hero who’s gonna make it . . . if not big, then better than nerds like Jeff.

Enter Bill, a veteran street cop, tough guy, plays by his own, and the police department’s, values. Take care of yourself and your buddies and to hell with rules and regulations, unless you need them, of course.

What playwright Lonergan is getting at is working class struggle. His play does turn very serious after a while. He’s showing us how hard any life can be. How you can have ideals and energy and still flop. How the world can be very tough, no matter who you are, how you struggle.

Quick and hard and accurate, “Lobby Hero” is the perfect play for director Ed Shea. He moves the production ahead relentlessly. Every scene is crisp, fast, messy, scary and delightful, as New York City can be.

The cast couldn’t be better. Jeff Church plays Jeff, the security guy, with wonderful humor that in a New York second becomes witless need. He’s funny, strong, hopeless and goofy, all at once.

As the Captain, Marlon Carey is a big, strong black man, forced, finally, to deal with the trouble and strain all around him. He’s one of those characters you root for, and worry about.

Ara Boghigian is the veteran cop, the guy you like and hate all at once. Boghigian shows you his shiny drive and smarts and then gut punches you with the man’s nasty side.

As Dawn, the rookie, Valerie Westgate shows somebody with drive and ability who’s, just maybe, bit off more than she can chew. There’s a moment when she removes her tight cop’s hat and flings her bunched up hair out to the world. It’s all reddish, full, flowing. Then it’s back in, under the hat. It’s also, perhaps, a metaphor for this play. A moment of freedom, amid all the tightness.

Or as Bill the cop puts it: “What the hell’s going on?” It’s the question of the week. Maybe of the year.

Want to Go?

“Lobby Hero” continues at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren through October 6th.

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