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Lobby Hero
a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Kenneth Lonergan

COMPANY : Pinch n' Ouch Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 14th Street Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 3868

SHOWING : November 05, 2010 - November 28, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Lobby Hero, tells the story of Jeff, a luckless young security guard trying to get his life together after being thrown out of the navy. But the lobby proves to be no sanctuary from the world, as Jeff is drawn into a local murder investigation involving his supervisor and a rookie policewoman who is in over her head with her hero-cop partner.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Grant McGowen
Dawn Portia Cue
Bill Larry Jr.
William Enoch King
Jeff Andrew Puckett
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REVIEWS

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Best Intentions
by Dedalus
Friday, December 3, 2010
3.5
What happens when you think you are a good person, wanting to go through life “doing the right thing,” but you are stymied by other people, by the good intentions of those who enter your lobby? What happens when “doing the right thing” is not always the best choice to make?

This is the ethical grey zone explored by Kenneth Lonergan’s “Lobby Hero,” Pinch n’ Ouch Theatre’s second production, which continues the promise shown by last summer’s “reasons to be pretty.” While I have respect for (and took great pleasure in) the wonderful performances here, I couldn’t help thinking that Mr. Lonergan’s script didn’t always ring true for me, and the production made a few choices that emphasized the story’s flaws rather than its strengths.

Jeff is a bit of a slacker, trying to put his life together. Kicked out of the navy for smoking dope, he is working as a security guard (“I’m not a guard, I’m a security officer!”). His boss, William, is struggling with his own demons (does he lie to protect his wayward brother from an unjust judicial system?). The lobby is also part of the beat of two cops, Bill and Dawn. Dawn is the rookie who has to wait in the lobby while her older partner completes an upstairs liaison, while Bill, in his hard-nosed way, constantly reminds her that, as a woman, she’ll never be a “real” cop. Over the course of several nights, these characters bond and argue and make choices that feel right but have unintended consequences.

Part of my problem with this show may be the play’s length. There are four characters with three intersecting stories, but the stories themselves are fairly simplistic. The characters are given ethical morasses they have to cross, and they either do or don’t. I found too many of the conversations less-than-urgent, less-than-revealing, almost-redundant, and this tended to make my interest in these people less-than-compelling. To my mind, the play was over 180 minutes long, but only 90 minutes deep.

Another problem is the obvious contrivances required to keep these characters confined to the one-set lobby. Yes, Jeff has to be there (it’s his job, after all), but I found the reasons for the others to “hang out” and talk less than compelling, making too many of the conversations ring false from the get-go. Even Jeff’s movements, at times, seem more motivated by a need to “change the picture” rather than a real need to get out from behind his station. It doesn’t help that the set, though stunningly designed and constructed, struck me as more upper-scale hotel-chain, than almost-ready-to-go-to-seed downtown apartment – the walls are too clean, the architecture too modern, the floors too tidy.

I’m also a bit skeptical of the “old-boys network” politics of Bill and Dawn’s police station. While it may have been more believable twenty (even fifteen) years ago, we’ve now seen and read too much fiction featuring strong female police women to accept the blithe assertions of the rampant sexism on the force. I have no doubt that it exists in many places and for many women, but I do doubt it as a general condition of all cities, which is what the dialogue here implies.

On the other hand, the company does what it seems to do best – they create four distinct and credible individuals who react honestly to each other, who make choices that seem natural even when they’re surprising, and who don’t hide their shortcomings or inconsistencies or mannerisms when confronting each other. Andrew Puckett brings to Jeff a likeable confusion. A born slacker, he nevertheless made me believe he wanted to change, wanted to start making better choices. Larry Jr brings to Bill a charming cruelty – yes, he’s the least motivated to “do the right thing,” but he made me like him in spite of all that. Portia Cue is all anger and vulnerability as Dawn, conflicted in her feelings for her partner and her outrage at the ethical quandary in which his actions have placed her. Kenneth Camp (William) has the most difficult task – stepping into the role mid-run and trying to get “up to speed” with the rest of the cast. I’m not sure he’s 100 % there yet – his William is all bluster and confusion (and minor line stumbles), and I didn’t see the smooth transitions expected from a longer rehearsal period. All four, however, blended together with some wonderful ensemble work, and made the script’s contrivances seem less intrusive.

There’s no doubt that Kenneth Lonergan is a skillful writer of dialogue and character, and there’s no doubt that Pinch n’ Ouch has a promising future with these small realism-driven character plays. In this particular production, though, there is a slight disconnect between the less-than-realistic contrivances of the playwright, the not-quite-realistic-enough choices by the set designer, and the blisteringly realistic performances of the cast that makes the whole thing too often ring too false.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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Funnier than Due Date
by St. Genesius
Monday, November 8, 2010
5.0
I give this review that title because this weekend I went to see Lobby Hero and saw the new movie Due Date. After I saw Due Date and realized I didn't really think it was that funny, I wanted to tell my friend about this other movie I just saw where I was literally loling.. and as I thought about it I realized it wasn't another comedic movie it was that play I just saw the night before - Lobby Hero. I don't know why, but I wasn't expecting a comedy, and I'm not sure this was a comedy.. I mean the character Jeff, who was the Lobby Hero, was just so genuinely real and naturally funny. Like a real person who doesn't even know how funny he is.

I love the selection of this play. I doubt any other local theater company would have picked it up which is a shame and a gem that Pinch n Ouch did.

Acting was very natural and superb, stage design a wee bit weak, and I don't love that it was at 14th St. I would have loved a more intimate setting for this play but besides that the play itself is date worthy as in take a date to it. That would be a fancy, impressive decision.
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