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Bob Goepfert Reviews "Lobby Hero" At Cap Rep

Kenny Toll and Mark W. Soucy in "Lobby Hero"
Richard Lovrich
Kenny Toll and Mark W. Soucy in "Lobby Hero"

Great writing, excellent acting and intelligent direction make “Lobby Hero” a gripping, spellbinding play. The play, which is at Capital Repertory Theatre through October 20, is the kind of work that keeps you hanging on every word.
What’s almost miraculous about the experience is that the play is filled with a lot of words and not much action.  In lesser hands, “Lobby Hero” could have your interest fading in and out throughout its two hour running time.  However, under the smart, fluid direction of Megan Sandberg-Zakian the Capital Rep production is always compelling.

The play centers about four people, who are connected by some sort of work in law enforcement.  Jeff is a screw-up security guard in a New York City apartment building.   William, a by-the-book, success driven African-American is his boss.  There are two police officers.  Bill is a veteran of the force known as a super cop.  He’s expecting to get his gold shield any day.  His partner,Dawn, is a female rookie.  In only three months on the job, her behavior has everyone doubting whether she has what it takes to be a cop.   

William’s brother is about to be arrested for a violent crime he might not have committed.  His past criminal record and the color of his skin make it likely he will be charged with the crime.  He asks his brother to provide him with an alibi.

William’s problem is whether to be true to his own code of conduct or help his brother whom he believes could be innocent.  However, William’s choice to help his brother, sets in motion a series of compromises others are forced to make.  They might not have the magnitude of William’s dilemma, but the outcome can ruin careers, crush friendships and destroy the trust of peers.  

At the end of the first act, nothing much seems to happen.  But in terms of character, you know each person extremely well. You are especially aware of their flaws, which are revealed so clearly that you know what must be the outcome of the play.  There is an inevitability about the situation that is emotionally distressing

“Lobby Hero” was written by Kenneth Lonergan, who is now famous for his screenplay of the Academy Award-winning “Manchester by the Sea.”    The play predates the film by a decade, but it reinforces Lonergan’s mastery of dialogue which is so natural you are almost unaware of the nuances that exist under every statement.  

He is also a morally grounded writer.  “Lobby Hero” touches on the issue of situational ethics.  Under what conditions is it OK to break society’s laws?     It also points out that staying true to you own code of behavior can lead to social corruption, racism, sexism, bullying and an unfair system of justice.

“Lobby Hero” is a play that does take place in a lobby in the early morning hours.  But there are no heroes to be found anywhere.

As Jeff, the not too bright security guard, Kenny Toll is a very funny loser who has the knack for saying the wrong thing at the worst possible moment.  He is so socially inept, you sometimes wonder if his revelations aren’t calculated.

Jonathan Louis Dent makes a big deal showing William as a tough, no-nonsense boss, and hard-hearted, so you have to wonder why he would choose a loser like Jeff as a confident.  It’s like begging his lie to be exposed.

Mark W. Soucy shows Bill to be a despicable individual who always serves his own ego.  Sarah Baskin is the sullen Dawn, the Queen of Bad Choices, and her most important action of the night seems based on revenge, not seeing justice served.

A basic but excellent set, ideal lighting, and even incidental sound makes this Capital Rep experience a highly professional production.   “Lobby Hero” is good theater.

“Lobby Hero” at Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany.   It plays through October 20.  Tickets and schedule information at 518-445-7469 and capitalrep.org

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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