The B Street Theatre’s Lobby Hero is a clever, quirky morality play. Under a slick veneer of comedy, the play slyly looks at the sliding scale of personal morals and ethics. This tale of a likeable loser is also laugh-out-loud funny, with clever writing, memorable characters and a winning cast.
Playwright Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote the screenplays for Analyze This and You Can Count on Me, gives us a comedic tale of two security guards and a couple of cops. The lobby in the title is the security desk of a swanky Manhattan apartment building. The “hero” part is a bit more complex. Although a couple of characters could fit that description by the play’s end, the clear front-runner for unexpected hero is Jeff the security guard.
Jeff, played by Dave Pierini, is an inspired central character. This 20-something nightshift security guard is a self-proclaimed “fuckup” who’s trying to get his life together after a series of screw-ups. Jeff is a lonely, charming schlump with absolutely no filter on his mouth. In a nonstop faucet of words, he innocently bumbles into verbal minefields while being wise by complete accident.
The story revolves around four central characters: Jeff; his by-the-book boss, William (Hansford Prince); the neighborhood cop-on-the-beat, Bill (Kurt Johnson); and Bill’s rookie partner, Dawn (Dana Brooke). They find themselves faced with personal dilemmas and out-of-whack moral compasses as a murder investigation gets under way.
The strength in Lonergan’s script is his refusal to wrestle laughs out of one-dimensional characters. Although Jeff is bumbling, he isn’t stupid. His kindhearted boss, William, is both rigid and conflicted. New cop Dawn is wide-eyed but not totally naive. And even Bill, with all his sleazy attributes, is still a top cop.
Director Buck Busfield must have had Pierini in mind when he picked this play. The actor not only has the perfect hound-dog face for the part, but also the ability to portray Jeff’s heart. B Street regulars Johnson and Brooke, along with Prince, round out this strong foursome.
Busfield skillfully keeps this talented cast in kilter, making sure this funny and thoughtful production never teeters too far into comedic camp. And set designer Ron Madonia gives us a sleek, handsome apartment lobby in which to spend our time.