“Lobby Hero” by Kenneth Lonergan, produced by Seth Ghitelman, and directed by Rob Gorman, is currently playing online via Silver Spring Stage. The play was to open the season but, due to Covid-19, can only be seen virtually at this time.
The play opened off-Broadway in March of 2001 then, in May of the same year, it moved to the John Housman Theatre. It was revived in 2018 with an all-star cast and was a Tony Award nominee. Lonergan has written several plays but he is probably more recognized for his film writing and direction, most recently for “Manchester by the Sea.”
This play revolves around four ordinary people. Jeff (Conor Patrick Donahue) is a security guard assigned to a lobby in an upscale apartment building in New York City. His boss, William (Marquese K. Johnson), is both Jeff’s supervisor a work confidante. The play opens with a confrontation between Jeff and William. William admits he is upset because his brother has been arrested but there are complications because his brother lied and said William was with him at the time of the crime. This incident is the focus of plot. Outside the lobby, we are soon introduced to Bill (Ronald Ward), a NYC cop, and his new police partner, Dawn (Kimberly James). We are told by Jeff that he is fascinated by Dawn even before she enters. Through Jeff, we discover that Bill has been visiting someone socially in the building on a regular basis. There are several conflicts between Dawn and Bill, Dawn and Jeff, Bill and Jeff and more conflicts with William and Jeff. The play seems to go from one conflict to another. The characters are asked to face their own reality — some succeed and some do not.
The performances are top notch and the message will leave you thinking.
Donahue does a fine job creating Jeff, a ne’er do well who is trying to make something of his life with this new job. There is also great chemistry between Donahue and James as they fight, flirt, and deal with each other’s principles of right and wrong.
James developed her character to be both strong and vulnerable. At one moment Bill is in control, but in next she appears to be.
Ward portrays the over-confident New York patrol cop. He is tough, but his libido is his Achilles’ heel. He shows us his pride and hubris.
Johnson’s William is perhaps the character faced with the biggest moral dilemma, having to choose between family loyalty and his own sense of morality. Johnson is effective in presenting this internal conflict to the audience.
Gorman does a fine job directing the play. The pace could drag but does not. This was written to be seen in a live production and is a intimate play, filled with lots of dialogue. There is almost no humor in the show, or maybe without an audience there seemed to be little at which to even chuckle. However, Gorman keeps us riveted on the characters.
The set is very clever. A projection is used as a window with stylized city streets peering through. There is a lobby door and a view of the outside where the two cops have several scenes. We also can see a hallway that leads to the elevators of the high rise. I especially liked the round lobby desk which allows so much flexibility to the movement of the characters. There are no chairs in the lobby but the characters have two areas they can sit down on. It all looks very realistic.
Jim Roberson’s lighting design, Lori Barringer’s sound design, Lena Winter’s costume design, as well as Brad Tehaan’s projection designs, helped keep this video performance of live drama visually interesting to watch.
“Lobby Hero” is well worth seeing. If you can catch it in its last weekend, it is also a great way to support community theatre in this unprecedented time. The performances are top notch and the message will leave you thinking.
Running time: Two hours and 25 minutes with one five-minute Intermission.
“Lobby Hero” plays weekends through December 13 at Silver Spring Stage –You will need to go to this link to buy your tickets online. If you miss this show, you can rent two other SSS productions. Silver Spring Stage is located at 10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD, in the Woodmoor Shopping Center.