by Roseann Cane
In the pristine lobby of a Manhattan high-rise apartment building, we find two security guards, Jeff (Kenny Toll), a good-natured slacker with a mildly checkered past, and his boss, William (Jonathan Louis Dent), a straitlaced, by-the-book pedant exceedingly frustrated by Jeff’s lax manner. William has reached a point where he’s prepared to fire Jeff, lecturing to him about the importance of minding the details of his job, keeping the building and its tenants safe by sticking to regulations, keeping track of everybody who enters and exits the building and its elevator, keeping an orderly station, and so on. Jeff, shaken by the thought of losing his job and wanting to emulate William’s work ethic, convinces his boss to give him another chance.
I have a particular fondness for plays that pose big questions about morals and ethics that we human beings face, and in Lobby Hero, Kenneth Lonergan has crafted a gratifying slice of four intertwining lives that’s at turns funny, sobering, and humane. An accomplished, award-winning playwright (This Is Our Youth, The Waverly Gallery) and screenwriter (Gangs of New York, You Can Count on Me, Manchester by the Sea), Lonergan has a finely tuned ear for human communication, spoken and unspoken, and a sure grasp of human behavior, choices, and consequences. Megan Sandberg-Zakian has directed the play with a sensitive, sure, and steady hand.
Into the scene walk two police officers, the tough and self-assured Bill (Mark W. Soucy), and his rookie partner Dawn (Sarah Baskin). A major contributor to Jeff’s problems with his boss, Bill makes regular visits to a lady love who lives in the building. Dawn is oblivious to Bill’s antics, is unable to resist her older partner’s seductive behavior, and stoically waits for him in the lobby. Until William’s confrontation, Jeff has accommodated Bill by not recording his visits, but that will have to change now that Jeff’s job is at stake.
It’s no accident that Lonergan has named the dignified security guard William and the brash, womanizing cop Bill: these two men seem to have polar-opposite ethics. As the play unfurls, we find each of the four characters confronted by the life-changing challenge that connects them. William’s brother is a suspect in a murder case; William fears that as an African-American, his brother will become a victim of the system, and considers concocting an alibi for him. Dent does a fine job as a tormented man confronted with a terrible choice. I wish that earlier in the play, he’d been a bit more pompous and self-important. His potential downfall would have been even more affecting. Toll, funny and touching, embodies Jeff’s sea-change beautifully. Soucy gives a fine and frightening performance as the ethically challenged police officer. I was especially moved by Baskin’s masterfully tempered performance as a sincere, gullible rookie who emerges as a wounded, righteous woman.
As is so often the case with Capital Repertory Theatre productions, the technical treatment of the play deserves kudos. Cristina Todesco has designed a perfectly real, nondescript modern Manhattan lobby. The lighting design by Devorah Kengmana effortlessly guides us through the passage of time as the action unfolds, and Arshan Gailus’s sound design authentically captures New York. The costumes by Miranda Giurleo, uniforms mostly, were nicely done, underscoring the visual and social differences between the two guards and the two police officers.
It’s a pleasure to watch such strong ensemble work, and this production of Lobby Hero is engaging, provocative, and all too realistic. First produced in 2001, it’s timely as ever.
Lobby Hero by Kenneth Lonergan, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, runs September 27-October 20 at Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 North Pearl Street, Albany, NY. Set design by Cristina Todesco; lighting design by Devorah Kengmana; sound design by Arshan Gailus; costume design by Miranda Giurleo. CAST: Kenny Toll as Jeff, Jonathan Louis Dent as William, Mark W. Soucy as Bill, and Sarah Baskin as Dawn.
Performance times: 7:30 pm Tuesday through Thursday; and 8 pm Friday and Saturday—with matinees 3 pm Saturday; 2 pm Sunday; and 2 pm Wednesday. Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany. Tickets range from $22–$57. Students with valid ID: $16 all shows. For tickets and information, call Tickets by Proctors, 518.445.SHOW (7469) or visit capitalrep.org.