By: Isa Goldberg
April 5, 2018. As humorous and unpretentious as Lobby Hero is, in its portrayal of everyday urban life, it’s a delving piece of theater, about the stories we tell ourselves, and others.
At the center of it all, Jeff, played by Michael Cera (Television’s Arrested Development), is a nebbish, a guy we literally catch sleeping on the job. Fortunately, he usually wakes up in time to avoid getting caught by his boss, William (Brian Tyree Henry), the African American manager of the security guard company. A hefty man, with a heavy head, William’s primary interest is to work his way up, but his foot is stuck in the world of ghetto crime. And it’s not even his own; it’s his lying brother who may have murdered the single mother of three little children.
Interestingly, in this four-character play, everyone is in uniform, as if their uniforms (designed by Paloma Young) tell us who they really are. But nothing here is quite so literal, or necessarily on the surface. The other two characters are police officers – they wear the real uniforms, so to speak. And they also are involved in the same adulterous, sexist, manipulative moves that typically go on in companies.
The complexities of urban life, issues of civic responsibility, the law, crime, romance, and morality ricochet throughout the play. To his credit, director Trip Cullman deftly mines the humor and absurdity of these situations. Still, it’s the vulnerability of Lonergan’s characters that makes for a mesmerizing stage play.
Bel Powley as Dawn, the rooky “girl” cop is totally fetching in her innocence, but she really kicks up a storm when her bully boss, Bill, puts her down, to cover up for his own wrong doing. A married man with kids, and a bad sex addiction, he rules his beat with an iron thumb…or related appendage. In that role, Chris Evans, known for playing superhero roles in Marvel Comics movies, is staggeringly adept. Playing the cop like he grew up on these mean streets, he enjoys telling Dawn, and the audience, how wise, and good-looking he really is.
Still, Michael Cera as Jeff, is super as the lonely, lost antihero. Sadly, all of the characters suffer the same fate – the belief that they’re never going to be anything. That deeply rooted inner conviction, which society gladly affirms, is the flaw which entraps them all.
But none, more unfairly than William. Trapped in a world that has lost its moral compass, he can do no right. To that end, Brian Tyree Henry’s understated portrayal is certainly forceful.
David Rockwell’s steely gray set is a continually spinning world that reveals the interior and exterior of a generic American city. It exists as metaphor. That this production happens to mark the 2001 Broadway debut, of Lonergan’s 2001 play is especially thrilling, as it is such a simple and charming work.
Lobby Hero *****
240 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036
Through May 13, 2019
For Tickets Click Here
Running Time 2 Hours and 20 Minutes
Photography: Joan Marcus