Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Lobby Hero (Beck Center)

‘LOBBY HERO’ gets a fine production at Beck Center

“How are you supposed to know if you’re right and everyone else is wrong?” “Do you stick by your feelings, no matter what?” These are two of the questions at the center of Kenneth Lonergan’s ‘LOBBY HERO,’ now on stage at Beck Center’s Studio Theatre.

Lonergan's play is presently one of the most popular plays in regional theatre. It is a serious comedy that had its off-Broadway premiere at Playwrights Horizons in New York during the spring of 2001. One publication called it the "best drama, best comedy and the best romance of the year, all rolled into one." After seeing the production you’ll understand why Lonergan is noted for excelling in the naturalistic conversational style of his characters.

Set in the lobby of a Manhattan high-rise, a security guard tries to make the most of the graveyard shift, cajoling, joking, and talking his way through the night. But when his boss's brother is implicated in a brutal murder and he is complicit in covering for him, the hapless lobby guard is confronted with a mind-bending problem: he wants to do the right thing, but he can't figure out what "the right thing" is. A rookie policewoman and her swarmy partner complete the cast.

Beck Center’s production is outstanding. In fact, the staging and acting outshine the script. That is not to say the writing is poor. It isn’t. It’s just that the play is overly long and lacks consistent emotional tension but the production makes the most of what it has to work with.

Director Seth Gordon has pulled out all the stops to make what could potentially be a talky evening, one of interest. He is aided by a terrific cast. The actors make the characters real enough so that we care about them and project what might happen to each in the future. That’s a tribute to the quality of the performances.

Matthew Joslyn, who portrays the lobby guard is wonderful. He makes hyper-hysteria and self-loathing a way of life. Joslyn alternates between being manic and depressed with ease. His confusion, his frustration, his desire to do the right thing, are finely conceived.

Jimmie D. Woody makes the supervisor believable, though his characterization isn’t always consistent. The conflict within isn’t always evident, but all in all, we empathize with his conflict.

As the policeman Paul Floriano makes being slimy look totally natural. The character isn’t as completely drawn as some of the others, but Floriano fills in all the writing gaps. We love to hate him.

Jennifer Clifford makes the novice policewoman appropriately, vulnerable yet manipulative. Her quick fade from innocent to viper is well developed.

Don McBride’s scenic design, Jeff Smart’s costumes and Jeff Lockshine’s lighting all work well.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Beck’s ‘LOBBY HERO’ gets an excellent production at Beck Center. Here is a production that takes a script to it highest level through wise directing and fine acting.