Review: Lobby Hero

4 star rating
A timely revival of Kenneth Lonergan's 2001 play sees truth, principles, dilemmas and self-interest under the microscope, in a stimulating and engaging production from Janelle Wilger.
Lobby Hero at The Lion & Unicorn Theatre

Image: Empty Desk Productions



Closes here: Saturday 14 July 2018

Author:
Kenneth Lonergan

Director:
Janelle Wilger

Cast:

Anthony Aguilar as Jeff

Sean Dale as William

Johannes Neubert as Bill

Francesca Sales as Dawn


Synopsis


Luckless security guard Jeff enjoys the convenience of his overnight shift at a Manhattan apartment lobby … until his stern boss, William, hesitantly involves him in a murder investigation.


At the same time, rookie cop Dawn is blindsided by her idol and hotshot partner Bill as they make one of their frequent stops at the lobby.


Kenneth Lonergan's play asks: what happens when one's principles and impulses find themselves in opposition?


Background


Lobby Hero is presented by Empty Desk, a diverse company of International actors and producers, all graduates or current students at East 15 Acting School.


They're confident that the play's universal questions and themes will resonate with the London theatre community.


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Friday 13 July 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

Truth, dilemmas, principles, self-justification and much else besides merge and writhe in this complex and funny 2001 play from Kenneth Lonergan.


It's a timely reappearance for this realistic drama as contested news reports conflicted with political machinations around Brexit during this past week's UK visit from US President, Donald trump.


Aptly underlining the point, perhaps, is that Lobby Hero is a play set in America and focuses on people we ought to be able to trust and whose very jobs seem to demand that they are honest, trustworthy and beyond reproach.


But, as this play unfolds over a 2 hour plus running time, we find that principles can be expediently discarded when required and the truth bent or invented to suit particular purposes.


First up, we meet two security guards.


Jeff is 27 and the lobby guard in what we suspect is a somewhat run-down apartment block - in any case, it's certainly no Trump Tower.


Discharged from the navy for smoking marijuana while on guard duty, Jeff has had his fair share of problems, but now feels he's back on the straight and narrow, paying off his debts and working to get his own apartment.


His boss William - the Captain of a squad of lobby guards dispersed around the city - is a principled man committed to telling the truth and making sure his guards carry out their duties to the letter.


However, he's just received bad news - his brother has been arrested for a brutal robbery which resulted in murder.


William can save his brother from being convicted if he tells the police that he was at the movies with him at the time of the robbery.


Frequent callers at Jeff's apartment block are two police officers - Bill and Dawn.


The former is an experienced cop, seemingly the pride of the force and widely respected.


His partner is a rookie cop with only 3 months on the job.


In spite of his experience and virtue, Bill calls at the apartment block to visit an 'accommodating' woman during work time.


The dilemma William faces is whether to lie for his brother and get him off-the-hook.


Jeff is also faced with a dilemma - whether to tell the police that he knows that William was not with his brother at the movies.


Dawn is similarly exposed when she discovers the real reason behind Bill's visits to the apartment block.


There's not much action in what is a dialogue-based play, but that hardly matters given Kenneth Lonergan's naturalistic, flowing writing style that ably balances humour with more intense moments, keeping us securely hooked throughout.


And Janelle Wilger's astute direction keeps things moving briskly, finding authentic performances from her engaging ensemble, especially in Anthony Aguilar's endearing security guard.


And it's his Jeff who is the 'lobby hero' in the end, though the resolution he ineptly effects is not without consequences, even if some truth and justice prevails.


Unfortunately, this production closes at this venue today, which leaves little chance to catch Kenneth Lonergan's provocative and challenging play on this outing.


But keep your eyes peeled for future productions because it asks the kind of big, disquieting questions we need to be asked regularly - even if finding answers may not be so easy.



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