|Gary F. Bell and the cast of Lobby Hero|
The four characters in Kenneth Lonergan’s 2001 drama Lobby Hero, live streaming in a compelling production by Stray Dog Theatre through Friday July 31st, are ordinary working stiffs rather than nobility, and their story isn’t so much tragic as it is ironic. All four do what they think is the right thing, but it inevitably turns out wrong. No empires fall, but feelings are hurt, careers damaged, and friendships crippled. Life goes on, but everyone dies a little.
William, meanwhile, has problems of his own. His brother has been implicated in the particularly heinous rape and murder of a nurse who had the misfortune to witness a gang of teenagers stealing drugs from a hospital. William’s brother claims he’s innocent, but he hasn’t got an alibi and asks William to cover for him by claiming they were at the movies together. For a man of William’s moral principles, it’s a serious conflict. He’s not completely convinced by his brother’s protestations of innocence, but he also knows the cops will assume a young black man with a troubled past and no alibi is guilty regardless of the truth.
Mr. Lonergan has drawn all four characters in such believable depth and detail that their trials are immediately moving. The more I think about the play, the more powerful it grows—a sure sign of great writing.
Director Gary F. Bell has assembled a very strong cast for his production. Mr. Peirick is completely convincing as the swaggering bully Bill—the sort of role he rarely gets to play, in my experience. Mr. Shaw shows the slow crumbling of William’s moral foundation in painful detail.
Ms. Engel all too clearly details the painful choices demanded of a woman taking on a man’s world in the pre-#metoo era and the personal cost of making them. And Mr. Goldmeier’s Jeff is a sad and touching combination of decency and ineptitude. The ultimate schlemiel, he means well but does a good thing badly, with unfortunate results for everyone.
|The cast of Lobby Hero|
That said, the lack of blocking and a physical set tends to make the play a bit static at times and the actors can’t do much in the way of movement inside their individual booths. I couldn’t help wondering whether this might have worked better as an actual radio play, with liberal use of sound effects to make up for the lack of set and some props. It is, in any case, a creative approach to doing theatre during the plague years.
Lobby Hero is available for on-demand streaming through Friday the 31st, but you must reserve a ticket in advance online.