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Theater review: 'Lobby Hero' at Pacific Stages

February 18, 2010 |  7:00 pm

Lobbyhero Kenneth Lonergan’s very fine, very funny “Lobby Hero,” which had its off-Broadway premiere in the spring of 2001, explores the moral relativism of a group of blue-collar New Yorkers.

Lonergan’s modestly scaled and pithy four-person play offers a scathingly amusing look at the depths to which ordinary people will descend in their frantic quest for self-justification.

Jeff (Edward Tournier), a lobby guard at a Manhattan high-rise, is a chatty loser who takes nothing very seriously. Not so Jeff’s martinet boss, William (Kareem Ferguson), a security “captain” with rigid ethical standards.  When William bends his principles to give his criminal brother an alibi, Jeff, in turn, betrays William’s confidence to Dawn (Dana Lynn Bennett), a rookie police officer who then betrays Jeff’s confidence to get back at her highly decorated partner/lover, Bill (Nick Mennell), whose behavior constitutes one long string of duplicity and betrayal.

There are no real heroes here, and no true villains either, just nimble moral equivocators who tap-dance their way through the ever-shifting rationales of Lonergan’s keenly observed social satire.

Unfortunately, in his staging at Pacific Stages  – the first full-scale production in this new El Segundo venue – director Robert Bailey short-changes his material, allowing his cast to turn in serviceable yet stiff portrayals that lack crucial subtext.  The exception is Mennell, who captures the bluff narcissism of his character, a double-dealing scoundrel who sincerely believes himself to be the nicest guy he knows.

– F. Kathleen Foley

“Lobby Hero,” Pacific Stages, 2041 Rosecrans Ave. #170, El Segundo.  8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays.  Ends March 21.  $34.99.  (310) 868-2631. www.pacificstages.org.  Running time:  2 hours.

Photo: Edward Tournier, Kareem Ferguson, Nick Mennell and Dana Lynn Bennett. Credit: Steven Moses

Comments () | Archives (4)

I find this review to be perplexing. I saw this play with a friend last weekend and we had the opposite response to the production--in fact, the entire audience seemed to really enjoy the evening. While Foley describes the play well, her depiction of the direction and acting is just OFF. After speaking with some other theatre-going friends, I can tell you I'm not alone in this opinion. This production of Lobby Hero offers dramatic build, nuance and a provocative story well-told. One friend told me he's seen the play performed elsewhere and didn't get it, but that this production brought the whole thing together. The direction and acting are tops, subtext in tact. One character, William, may be "stiff" --that's his character. One character, Dawn, may be uptight --that's her character. Jeff is remarkably un-stiff in character and portrayal [in fact the actor deftly moves thru the character's handling of a powerful moral dilemma]. Foley's singular praise of Mennel's Bill is well-deserved [not the singularity, but the acting]. The only thing "stiff" I can see here is Foley's review. The only thing being "short-changed" here is Foley's cursory review--it's just ungenerous and certainly only one person's misguided opinion. Personally, I appreciate every theatre experience I have where the production values, direction and acting engage me in an enjoyable and thought-provoking journey, as did this Pacific Stages "Lobby Hero."

I saw show last weekend and I really enjoyed it! I hope this doesn't say something about me, but I had never heard of Kenneth Lonergan before or Lobby Hero. I went to the play with some friends last Saturday and was thrilled that they had brought me along. I thought the show was funny, thought provoking and extremely well acted. I'm not a huge "play" person, but I'm thinking of getting season passes for this theater if this is the type of productions they will be performing. I thought the entire cast did a gret job and found myself liking and dis-liking them throught the show. Each character is just a "normal" person - with their own flaws and frailties, and the actors really brought this out. I was also really impressed with the set and costumes. It felt like being in a New York apartment building (I lived in Manhattan for a spell) and not an office building in Manhattan Beach. Keep up the excellent work!

My wife and I went to see Lobby Hero and here’s our review: GO SEE THIS PRODUCTION! You will laugh, be entertained and made to think. We are thrilled the South Bay has a new theatre company that holds much promise!!

I was visiting from Washington DC last week and was lucky to get an invitation to attend Pacific Stages "Lobby Hero". I found both the production and the performances to be first rate. It was a compelling story, well told by the cast, and it was reflected in the audience response during the performance. I was moved to lustily "Boo" Nick Mennel during his curtain call. He was so good as the scoundrel "Bill" that I had to share my feelings.
Great Job!
Jim Stiegman
Susan Ryan


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