Assistant Editor discusses award winning playwright Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero

Abigail Sokolsky || Layout Assistant

Photo courtesy of www.playbill.com.

Lobby Hero marks not only American film director and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan’s shift from screen to stage, but American actor Chris Evans move from film to theatre as well (best known for playing the role of Captain America). Lonergan is best known for being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (BAFTA) for his work on You Can Count on Me (2000), Gangs of New York (2002), and Manchester by the Sea (2016). Manchester by the Sea was ultimately awarded a BAFTA, pushing Lonergan to new heights in the film industry. Lonergan has now since turned his attention back to stage theatre, writing Lobby Hero which began in 2001 Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons before later returning in March of 2018 at the Helen Hayes Theatre. This return of Lobby Hero to New York promised to be engaging and fresh with its star-studded cast, including Michael Cera, Brian Tyree Henry, and Bel Powley in addition to Chris Evans.

Students at Franklin and Marshall College were able to attend a performance of Lobby Hero on March 3, sponsored by alumni James Lapine ‘71 and the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House.

Despite its small cast and setting, Lobby Hero manages to follow a number of different plot lines and conflicts. As a young female cop (Bel Powley) attempts to break into a male dominated field while her partner, a corrupt cop named Bill (Chris Evans), makes her probationary period difficult on the force. Meanwhile, an ex-air force pilot, Jeff (Michael Cera), works as a security guard in the lobby of an apartment building, overseen by his boss Bill (Brian Tyree Henry). When Bill’s brother is arrested for murder, Bill faces a difficult decision- lie and say his brother was with him at the time of the crime or leave him at the mercy of an inattentive and incompetent court appointed lawyer. Jeff finds himself in the midst of a quickly worsening situation when Bill confides in him. Torn between loyalty to his friend, romantic devotion, concern for his community, and his own understanding of right and wrong, Jeff must make a difficult decision that will change his life forever.

Lobby Hero proved to be an action-packed performance, a thriller that happens only in two spaces- in and immediately outside an apartment building lobby. While this limited setting had the potential of being difficult to stage, this challenge was artfully met with the creation of an innovative and clever rotating platform.

This revolving surface with two walls allowed for the scene to be changed by degrees of rotation, alternately opening and closing the room, either allowing the audience to see inside the lobby or placing the viewer with the characters outside. Additionally, by keeping characters in the lobby even while the focus was on the action unfolding outside, the audience’s attention was drawn to the contrast between the two.

In summary, Lobby Hero was a feat of casting, staging, and storyline intricacy.

Junior Abigail Sokolsky is a Layout Assistant. Her email is asokolsk@fandm.edu.

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