Second Stage is marking the opening of its first Broadway house—the don’t-call-it-Helen-anymore Hayes Theater—in grand fashion: with a splashy David Rockwell renovation (think digital murals and pops of Pantone’s trendy Ultra Violet); a cast of millennial-endorsed actors including geek-chic idol Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) and erstwhile Captain America Chris Evans; and a revival of Lobby Hero, a chatty, plot-light comedy by playwright and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan, an Oscar winner for 2016’s Manchester by the Sea.
Cera stars as security guard Jeff, one in a long line of Lonergan’s signature screw-ups, underdogs, and Everymen. (In 2014, he played another, the privileged teenage petty thief Warren, in the revival of This Is Our Youth.) With his slight build and overly solicitous demeanor, Jeff isn’t exactly a natural fit as a security guard in a Manhattan high-rise. Heck, he doesn’t even fit into his uniform. The too-short pants, the too-loose collar, the baggy shirt—no one’s ever going to take him seriously. Certainly not Bill (Evans, in a seriously impressive Broadway debut), the smooth-talking ego-tastic police officer who can’t even be bothered to sign the ledger when he’s visiting, ahem, a friend. And probably not rookie-cop Dawn (The Diary of a Teenage Girl’s Bel Powley, overacting criminally), who’s too busy mooning over her philandering partner, Bill, to succumb to Jeff’s smooth moves: “Do you know why the New York City cops changed from the light blue shirts to the dark blue shirts recently?” Like we said…smooth.
In fact, the only person who sees Jeff as something more than a rent-a-cop is his boss, fellow security guard William (Brian Tyree Henry, of FX’s Atlanta). “I don’t know why I like you, but I do,” William tells Jeff. That’s likely why William confides in Jeff—revealing details about his brother’s arrest and his potential crisis of conscience. Or maybe it’s simply because Jeff’s there. Either way, William’s admission sends the skittish, garrulous Jeff into a moral quagmire.
Is Jeff using the dicey legal details to get closer to Dawn? (Yes, undoubtedly.) Does Dawn want the information to bring down Bill, or to bring justice to the victim’s family? (Both…but probably more of the former.) Is there any way that something Jeff told Dawn that William told him would hold up in court? We’ve all watched enough Law & Order to answer that question. And why are William, Jeff, and Dawn the only ones who actually walk through the lobby door? Doesn’t anyone actually live in this presumably insanely overpriced apartment building?
But let’s not overanalyze this. The action—such as it is—in the 17-year-old Lobby Hero is almost immaterial. For a few very brief moments, a bully gets his comeuppance; a “f–kin’ bitch” doesn’t have to shut up and be “very, very nice” to her older, more powerful partner; and a ne’er-do-well night guard grows a bit of a spine. In 2018, that’s a little bit heroic.
Lobby Hero opened March 26, 2018, at the Hayes Theater and runs through May 13, 2018. Tickets and information: 2st.com.