Lobby Hero

By Kenneth Lonerganlobby hero by lonergan at redwist theatre chicago

Directed by Keira Fromm

At Redtwist Theatre, Chicago

Intriguing comedy/drama/mystery cleverly staged and well acted.

Since Andrew Jessop has taken over the set designs for Redtwist Theatre, he has  revolutionized the intimate storefront space making it look larger that it is and allowing up to 47 audience seats up from the 30 or so that usually are crammed into small space. Jessop’s latest set design moves the stage up to and including a street side door that allows actors to both initiate a scene on Bryn Mawr and enter the set from the street. With a remote mic, the show literally plays on the street! A nicely effective touch.

lobby hero by lonergan at redwist theatre chicago

The set is a lobby of a high rise apartment complex in Manhattan that finds a 27 year old man, Jeff (excellent work from Andrew Jessop_ who is wandering through life struggling to find his life’s purpose.  He and his boss, William ( an intense performance from Michael Pogue) play a love-hate game of comic one-upmanship  that garners laughs as well as  establishes each character.But this play isn’t a comedy, rather a drama with mystery elements.  Issues such as honor, trust, group loyalty and truth are put to the test as the gray areas of life influence moral values.

lobby hero by lonergan at redwist theatre chicago

When the macho charismatic NYPD patrolman, Bill (Eric Hoffman) and his female rookie cop Dawn (nice work from Maura Kidwell) stop by the lobby so Bill can visit his friend in 22-J, Jeff instantly falls for Dawn. Before entering the lobby, we hear a discussion (on the street) where Dawn and Bill are discussing Dawn’s physical arrest of a drunk earlier that night. Hints of Dawn hero-worshiping Bill are obvious.

lobby hero by lonergan at redwist theatre chicago

While Dawn is restlessly waiting for Bill, Jeff awkwardly attempts (hilariously)  to flirt with Dawn who resists his clumsy approach. When Jeff blabbers that Bill is upstarts having sex with his ‘lady friend,’ Dawn becomes jealous and she loses respect for Bill’s professionalism.

lobby hero by lonergan at redwist theatre chicago

Later, William, desperate to confide with someone, tells Jeff about how is brother was arrested for a murder/robbery. William, ever the totally honest person, struggles with family loyalty versus honesty. He can provide an alibi for his brother and officer Bill will vouch for his trustworthiness with the detectives. William eventually tell Jeff that he wasn’t at the movies with his brother on the day and time of the murder. Their talk ends with Jeff not sure what William will do.

When Dawn confronts Bill with his cheating on Dawn and his violation of police rules by using his patrol time to bed with a woman, we see Bill instantly become a smooth-talking lying side  that allows him to justify any action he desires. He tells Dawn that if he doesn’t back her concerning her use of force to arrest that guy the night before, she’ll surly get fired since she is probationary cop. Bill’s nasty hedonistic side emerges.

The next night, Dawn is intimated into waiting for Bill in the lobby. She strikes up a conversation with Jeff who is still enamored with her. Slowly, Jeff’s conscience and since of justice demands that he indirectly but accurately concocts a story of how his ‘theoretical’ friend  lied to the police about an alibi thus allowing a possible murder to go free. Dawn quickly realizes the ramifications of Jeff’s statement.

What follows, I’ll not disclose. You’ll have to attend the show to see how each of the four resolve their moral dilemmas. Does  truth and justice prevail or does cowardice and deceit rule here?  Lonergan’s script is believable and his characters are forever changed. The Redtwist Theatre’s production is uniquely staged and it features nuanced and rich performances from Michael Pogue, Maura Kidwell and Eric Hoffman. I particularly liked Andrew Jessop’s  smart comic timing in the debates with William. Jessop has  disarmingly coy ability to charm and exude empathy from a character that serves him nicely in this show.

Lobby Hero is an intelligent work that moves from a contemporary comedy into a mysterious morality drama about personal responsibility and truth. This show is well worth seeing.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff recommended

At Redtwist Theatre, 1044 w. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, call 773-728-7529, www.redtwist.org,  tickets $25 – $27 -$30, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays  and Sundays at 7:30 (check the website holiday blackouts), running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through January2, 2011