Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Lobby Hero"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark


"Lobby Hero"

by Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Scott Edmiston

Scenic Design by Sarah Sullivan
Lightiing Design by Karen Perlow
Costume Design by Gail Astrid Buckley
Assistant Stage Manager David Lurie
Production Stage Manager Jennifer Grutza

Jeff..............Jason Schuchman
William....Ricardo Engermann
Dawn................Cortney Keim
Bill.............Robert Pemberton

In "Lobby Hero" Kenneth Lonergan picks out four ordinary people, and makes their lives fascinating. The lobby Sarah Sullivan puts them in is built of shiny, impersonal, spotless surfaces --- grey marble floors, chrome and glass double-doors, an efficient security-guard's simple desk. There's nothing in the set or the uniforms that Gail Astrid Buckley that makes this story or these people anything but ordinary. It's the intricate dance of what people know or find out about or confess to one another that makes them special.
That and the brilliant acting, of course.

The cast breaks logically into pairs throughout the show. Jeff, the title character, is young, unfinished, drifting, learning, trying. He looks on William his supervisor as a by-the-book autocratic father-figure. But he also pairs with Dawn, a gorgeous young rookie-cop who drops in on the regular beat often enough to turn him on. And she is, of course, connected with her partner Bill, who is a leader-teacher who knows what corners can be cut and which lies and half-truths and power-plays will get him what he wants. The fact that William's brother needs his alibi because he's been arrested, and Bill's opinion of the truth carries weight at the station-house, gives that intricate dance of truth and power its fascination.

And it's the playing that makes all these people as real as the heavy pistols and billy-clubs hung from these beat-cops' belts. Each of the quartet, alone and interacting, becomes a person, and Director Scott Edmiston has orchestrated everything so that they seem to be making up the story as they go along. For each actor, this is a stretch.

If I've seen Cortney Keim before it was in The Marathon where her work had little hope of standing out. Here her small stature and pixie-glitter smile blaze delicately forth from a heavy and ill-fitting uniform, suggesting she may actually be as ill-fitted to be a cop as her self-serving partner thinks. She is the "by-the-book" character here, adoring of her partner's efficiency and expertise and outraged at his lies. Her performance should make everyone interested in what Keim does in her next show.

I've seen Ricardo Engermann twice, playing Black men in Black plays with other Black actors, and in both I felt his directors allowed or perhaps asked of him a kind of showboating, external style of acting that got instant response from the audience, and turned me off completely. Here --- in a part that needn't be filled by a Black actor, but that resonates much more deeply when it is --- there is absolutely none of that style there at all. As "Captain" of the company's security guards he projects both his commander hat and his mentoring, wrestling and asking advice with his own personal moral dilemma. His concentration and sensitive interaction demonstrate an acting expertise I worried might not be there.

I'd seen Robert Pemberton only once before, doing a very good job of playing what looked like the type-cast role of a movie actor. His tanned, blow-dried, intimately affable yet vaguely narcissistic and vaguely self-absorbed air is characteristic of movie-tv actors who merely have to BE before close-in cameras are characteristic of such work. (Twice, movie-actors have heatedly complained that someone else was "too old for that part" --- Subtext: they didn't get cast.) Here that handsome centering blossoms as this savvy cop-on-the-make uses his annual citations for excellence and awareness of station-house loyalties to throw his weight around.

I saw Pemberton and Jason Schuchman in the same play --- but it'd be hard Not to see Schuchman who, since his Boston debut in "The Judas Kiss" at The Lyric, has popped up in small roles all over the landscape. (He was with Engermann in "A Soldier's Story".) This is really his biggest and most complicated role. He must be both straightforwardly honest yet tempted to compromise, a drifter yearning for security and success, willing to alibi his shortcomings but gullible enough to get himself into trouble. The first time I saw him, playing a bit-part as an Italian fisherman, I was convinced he couldn't understand everyone else's English. Obviously, he is growing as an actor.

Kenneth Lonergan wrote and directed an award-winning film, but "Lobby Hero" despite the intimate humanity of its characters, is a carefully crafted slice-of-life play full of character conflict and surprises. And the invisible hand of Scott Edmiston makes this quartet of people vibrantly alive.

Love,
===Anon.


"Lobby Hero" (26 October - 24 November)
THE LYRIC STAGE OF BOSTON INC.
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 437-7172


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