Jeff is instantly in love with Dawn's implausibility: she's all the manly military virtues his brutal bastard of a Dad admired, embodied in a Babe. Maybe this is what real strength of character looks like! But it doesn't take long for Jeff to figure out that the young woman he's inclined to idealize is inclined to idealize her mentor Bill, and that Bill's Supercop Game is a con that has already compromised the smitten Dawn. Jeff wants to warn her, woo her, impress her, win her -- and he can see that to Dawn he's just a doorman dressed in an imitation cop suit, and the very idea that such a lowly specimen could think that a policewoman might be interested in him is an insult. For everybody, the open hearted path toward intimacy, toward love or friendship or fellow feeling, runs through a minefield. One broken rule makes even a cop a perp, and anything you say can and probably will be used against you. What's remarkable about the Lyric's "Lobby Hero" is how intensely director Scott Edmiston engages us with every minute interaction, and how he makes the moment to moment responses of ordinary working class people seem as consequential as the decisions of generals and kings. We root for the one who is trying the hardest to figure out how to do the right thing for the right reason, and we hope that everybody, right or wrong, will make it through the minefield with minimal damage.
It helps that the Lyric actors are charismatic. Lonergan's play hints that heroes can be found in the most unlikely places. We may be surrounded by heroes, or might even be heroes ourselves. This is easier to accept when the performers have a glimmer of star dust, enough to supply an internally generated follow spot that draws all eyes and endows their smallest gestures with significance. Jason Schuchman, who looks very young and pretty much ineffectual, is a supremely interesting actor. It may be inborn, a gift; or it may be skill: but everything he does on stage seems fresh and quirky yet right. Every thought that passes through the character's mind travels right through Schuchman and communicates, even if in the next nanosecond his Jeff realizes that it would be very bad if anybody could tell what he was thinking and sends out a panicked message to his body to shut down the signal. Too late! We know. And we know why Jeff is a terrible liar and never gets away with anything. Ricardo Egermann, on the other hand, is an actor with a handsome surface and hidden depths. We can't tell what his William is thinking unless he decides to confide, but we know that he is thinking, all the time; thinking and brooding and suffering. Egermann's William has grounding and dignity. Robert Pemberton is raffish and romantic, a leading man who is also a character actor. He gives us a Bill who is a natural, team captain and prom king and union rep and cop of the year, and such a consummate con man that he even cons himself. Bill can get away with almost anything. Who could resist him? Certainly not a vulnerable hero worshipping novice like Courtney Keim's Dawn. And if Bill reminds you more than a little of a certain recent president.....
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