Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Lobby Hero
Blank Canvas
Review by Mark Horning | Season Schedule (updated)

Benjamin Gregg and Darius Stubbs
Photo by Andy Dudik
Tepid. That is the word that describes the Blank Canvas production of Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero. The acting, script, directing, and even set design are all lukewarm. This is not to say there are not some redeeming qualities. There are moments of well-placed comedy that lighten the mood somewhat, but it is too thin a storyline for a two hour and twenty minute (with intermission) sit. The play is directed by Anne McEvoy.

Jeff (Benjamin Gregg) is the quintessential poster boy for the "loser generation," living in a spare room of his brother and wife's home while paying off a $5,000 loan shark debt. He works the midnight to 8 a.m. shift as a "security specialist" (desk clerk) of an apartment building.

Jeff's boss William (Darius Stubbs) takes his job way too seriously, as well as militarily. A frequent visitor to the building is Bill (James Alexander Rankin), a veteran of the NYPD who, although married, goes up to visit a woman in apartment J22 who has a reputation for having "a lot of gentlemen callers." Accompanying Bill on these visits is Dawn (Kelly Strand), a twenty-something rookie cop in training who waits in the lobby and talks with Jeff to pass the time while Bill has his way upstairs.

William has received word that his brother and two other men have been arrested for the violent rape and murder of a nurse at the local hospital. William is forced to lie in order to give his brother an alibi. To unburden himself of the shame, he confides in Jeff. At the same time, sex addict Bill has cast his roving eye on his new partner, wishing to add her to his long list of conquests.

On opening night, this play seemed like a moving staged reading, with only flickers of emotion occasionally springing up. There is a lack of intensity throughout. Jeff is not needy or nerdy enough, William lacks displays of soul-wrenching guilt, Bill is not mean enough, and the actress playing Dawn had trouble with her lines. The play itself needs to be more compact and concise instead of rambling dialogues that over-fill it. The costumes designed by Katie Atkinson and Jill Kenderes seem ill-fitting and slightly off as far as authenticity goes (maybe due to budget constraints). The set design, although it does have a rather clever functioning elevator door, looks like a collection of cast-off furniture brought from the curb to the set.

Blank Canvas does a wonderful job when producing musicals in their living room size stage area using ingenious combinations of steps and risers. That flat stage area seems bigger, but unfortunately the production itself is small.

Lobby Hero, through September 7, 2019, at Blank Canvas, Suite 211, 78th Street Studios, 1305 West 78th Street, Cleveland OH. Tickets may be purchased online at

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