A complex new production of Lobby Hero at Theatre Horizon takes an exacting look at just how delicate an instrument a moral compass can be. The setting is a commonplace lobby of a Manhattan apartment building, just like any other. Two security guards work the night shift, and happen to cross paths with two New York police officers. What seems like just another day on the job unfolds, however, into Playwright Kenneth Lonergan’s web-like character study of morality and corruption.
Lonergan’s approach is simple and without frills, relying on a straightforward dialogue style, but it doesn’t take long to see that each of these four characters, who’s lives just happen to intersect, have not-so-innocently gotten in over their heads. Each is pulled by their own specific sense of duty, be it family, job, or self-preservation, causing a whirlwind of issues to arise, most predominantly gender and racial politics.
Director Matthew Decker shapes all of this with a light touch that is so carefully tuned it’s almost invisible. Even through sections of heavy exposition, Decker’s tight rhythm and specificity shine through, easily blending the quick wit and the dark provocations. What Decker brings to the equation is a sensitivity that balances the sharpness inherent in the script.
As Philadelphia well knows, Akeem Davis (William) is a force to be reckoned with. His laser-sharp focus, unique charisma, and unending empathy create a presence that is difficult to take your eyes off of. His William, a young security guard captain, is noble yet flawed with a light humor amidst a world-weariness, making every moment he spends on stage enthralling to be a part of. He naturally takes on the role of everyone’s protector, but the magnetic moments where he is left questioning himself resonate long after his scenes conclude.
Equally matched, and guided by the pristine dialect coaching of Marla Burkholder, the rest of the small but mighty ensemble constructs a pressure cooker around their unique relationships. As a misguided, floundering young security guard, Brian Ratcliffe (Jeff) gives the production the largest portion of its lightness with his quirky facial expressions and casual affability. Looming on the other side of his sign-in sheet, of course, is the NYPD.
Kevin Meehan as Bill, a young but seasoned officer, is equal parts charming and stomach-turning. He’s quick to flash a boy-next-door smile, but will just as easily turn on a dime, revealing his convoluted true nature.
Rachel Camp plays a rookie cop, Dawn, who is as tough as she is eager, a mixture bound to get her into trouble here and there. The only female voice in the show, Camp poignantly navigates her position in the boys’ club of the Manhattan police force and all of the sexual politics that come with it.
The lobby atmosphere blends the efforts of Scenic Designer Maura Roche, Lighting Designer Maria Shaplin, and Sound Designer Larry Fowler, each contributing a gentle yet distinct element to the feeling of a true Manhattan environment. And Alison Roberts’ costume design gives each uniformed character their own personality while still honoring the detail of their respective ranks.
Though simple on the surface, Theatre Horizon’s Lobby Hero becomes more and more complex as the facades disappear. And even years after its original premiere, Lonergan’s script wrestles with issues of gender, race, abuse of authority, and institutional injustices that are still, if not more, relevant today.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.