Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Lobby Hero is a Precise Ideological
Modern Day Morality Tale

Also see Richard's review of Triptych

T. Edward Webster and Howard Swain
Aurora Theatre Company's current offering, Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero, is a serious comedy that had its off Broadway premiere at Playwrights Horizons in New York during the spring of 2001. Time Out called it the "best drama, best comedy and the best romance of the year, all rolled into one." South Coast presented the west coast premiere last year to critical acclaim and London audiences saw the play at the Donmar Warehouse last year where it played with the playwright's This Is Our Youth.

Kenneth Lonergan is one of the new playwrights excelling in the naturalistic conversational style of his characters. All of his characters are three dimensional and they speak in everyday language. Mr. Lonergan is emerging as one of the essential voices of his generation. The play has a small cast of four characters who are drawn with clear sighted honesty and caught in a dilemma of the moment.

Lobby Hero centers on 27 year old garrulous slacker Jeff (T. Edward Webster) who works security in the lobby of a New York high rise apartment building. He probably is basically a doorman, but he insists "I'm a security specialist." This extremely likeable fellow is trying hard to get on his feet after being kicked out of the Navy for smoking pot. He says "all of the guys on ship were smoking. I just happen to be caught." He has also severed his relationship with his father (former career Navy man) and he is in serious debt. Jeff's job is his one big challenge to getting his life on track. He even tries to read "The Six Habits of Self-Motivated People," but as he tells his supervisor, "I guess I wasn't really that motivated."

William (Brent St.Clair) the supervisor is solid as a rock. He is a hardworking, law-abiding, ultra-responsible African American who is quite concerned about his protégé Jeff. He sees the young drifter as a joker whom he can help be "serious." He does not want Jeff to be a "a doddering, useless old unemployed Pops doorman." William has a major problem - his younger brother has been arrested for the murder of a nurse and has told the police that he was at the movies with William at the time of the murder, which is a complete lie. Now William is torn between loyalties to an errant brother he still loves and honestly believes was not involved in the murder. He also believes his brother will not get a fair defense because of his race and the family has no money to afford a good lawyer. If he testifies honestly, his brother will automatically be sent to jail.

Lobby Hero's other two characters are rookie cop Dawn (Arwen Anderson) and her veteran cop partner Bill (Howard Swain), who is married but wants to start up a fling with the admiring Dawn. Jeff is also infatuated with the lady in uniform. Bill offers to help William by pulling a few strings in the old boys' network down at the precinct house to get the wayward brother out of jail. William even tells Jeff about the lie and everyone has to face a moral dilemma involving the false alibi of William's brother.

T. Edward Webster is charming as Jeff. His ping pong dialogue with his "captain" is razor sharp, such as "My last girlfriend was a toll booth and she intimidated me." He is not a goofball by any means but a guy who really wants to do something with his life. Webster gives a winning performance by his depiction of a loose talker entangled in a maze of right and wrong.

Brent St. Clair as the senior security "captain" has his role down pat. He plays the character as a man struggling with his upright moral code and his love for a wayward brother. Howard Swain as the veteran cop is right on the mark as he tries to impress his young adoring female partner. Arwen Anderson as Dawn provides a memorable performance with her faux Bronx accent. She portrays the character with side-by-side insecurity and bravado.

Tom Ross's direction gives a nice lucidity build to the play for its critical moments, with restrained emotion on the part of the four characters. Set design by Richard Olmsted in the three sided theater shows a certain sterile effect for the lobby of an apartment building for a lower middle income group of tenants.

Lobby Hero plays through December 21 at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley, Ca. For tickets call 510-843-8422 or visit

The next production will be George Bernard Shaw's Man of Destiny which opens on January 30th.

Photo: David Allen

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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