****stars

With the rise of social movements such as me too and Black Lives Matter, Oscar-winner Kenneth Lonergan’s play Lobby Hero is thought by some to be more pertinent now than when it premiered in 2001. Exploring abuse of authority, sexual impropriety and racial profiling, Lobby Hero questions the perceptions of truth, wavering loyalties, compromise and justice. It’s a character driven comic-drama of great intensity and wit.

In the lobby of a Manhattan apartment complex, in the early hours, twenty something security guard, Jeff, finds himself navigating an ethical minefield. His superior William, discloses that his brother is a suspect in an horrific murder and that he has been asked to provide a false alibi. Local cop Bill, a highly experienced and revered ‘super cop’ has a special interest in the apartment complex visiting a ‘friend’ on a nightly basis. His newbie rookie, Dawn, naive and blinded by Bill’s notoriety and “charms” has entered into a sexual relationship with her superior. All four are soon inexplicably entwined where too many words are said, good intentions are distorted and consequences turn destructive.

The strength of Lobby Hero is in the terrific writing of Lonergan layered with his trademark wit and depth of character and the four actors stand up to the challenge of these deceptively difficult roles. Charles Grounds is terrific as Jeff, the hapless security guard who finds it difficult to edge his way out of his circumstance. Grounds has an uncanny ease in delivery, serving him well for Jeff’s rapid thought tangents. And his nuanced physicality is particularly affective adding depth of character.

Victory Ndukwe has an engaging honesty as William grappling with the gravity of his situation and the decision he must ultimately make and as rookie cop Dawn, Monique Fisher delivers an astute performance with the right touches of naïveté, grit and determination for the truth. Ryan Murphy’s much celebrated cop Bill who pushes his authority too far with an arrogance toward truth and justice is disturbingly acerbic.

Set design by Juliette Whitney is atmospheric and clever utilising the huge arched windows and exposed brick giving a yesteryear feel to the complex and the original music compositions by Albert Salt are well employed throughout the play. Director James Vinson, in his theatre directing debut, has done a fine job with this very difficult work although I was not convinced on the removal of the interval. The work is very long at over 2 hours and the play is heavily text driven. The point where Act 1 ends (or seems to end?) is somewhat climactic so a moment to reflect and refresh would have been welcome.

Nevertheless, this is a fine production of a work that is both relevant and timely by an exciting young new company, Around the Moon Productions. Grab a ticket if you can!

Lobby Hero is playing at 45 downstairs until 27 October.

https://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/wp2016/event/lobby-hero/

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