'Lobby Hero' by Kenneth Lonergan
Produced by Icarus Theatre now onstage at Alumnae Theatre
I’m keeping my eye out for Icarus Theatre in the future if this performance of ‘Lobby Hero’ is any indication of where the company is headed.
Icarus Theatre challenged itself in tackling Kenneth Lonergan’s gripping ‘Lobby Hero’ at Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre. The script reflects modern twenty-first-century daily life in Manhattan. It was an apt choice made by Icarus to stage it, but not an easy one, as the play addresses issues that have been heightened throughout the pandemic.
Lonergan’s story is set in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building where we meet the on-duty night security guard Jeff (Anthony Goncharov) and three others who strongly influence his life at this moment. There is Jeff’s strict and perhaps a tad overbearing boss, William (Matthew G. Brown) and two cops on the beat who end up in the lobby – senior officer Bill (Connor Briggs) and new police officer Dawn (Emily Anne Corcoran).
A tad insecure about his life, Jeff has big plans for himself. He’s not that interested in this job but it’s security for him to stay there to put the first month’s rent down on a nice apartment and move out from his brother and sister-in-law’s home. Jeff is on the computer, reads a book and will sometimes place his feet on the desk and close his eyes for a nap. His supervisor William has a lot on his plate right now and is rightfully testy with Jeff. William has learned his wayward brother might be involved in a murder investigation. Jeff and William’s professional relationship is on tenterhooks now as well.
On-duty and unpredictably mannered police officer Bill and his intensely focused on-the-job rookie partner Dawn end up in the lobby a few times. For some questionable reason, Bill periodically ends up here with Dawn and tells her to stay down in the lobby while he goes up to a specific apartment. Dawn doesn’t question Bill’s authority but later we learn something is going down in that apartment which puts their professional relationship in jeopardy regarding police ethics, honour, and duty. Additionally, Jeff’s building personal interest in officer Dawn also places her in an awkward personal situation when we learn about her past. Racial issues also influence the story deeply and strongly.
There are some challenges with Naomi Daryn Boyd’s set design on the Alumnae stage. I liked how the angled corners of the sides of the building give the sense we are peering in on the story’s action. The back wall housing the mailboxes is in dire need of a paint job which shows this apartment is not an upscale Manhattan building. The security desk is located centre stage with a computer. There is a sitting area downstage far left that looked comfortable enough for those who are waiting for something or someone.
I was puzzled by the door entrance to the lobby stage right. It does not convey the sense this is an apartment building. Most apartment buildings in Manhattan would have larger entranceways. Additionally, when the said door was opened and closed, sometimes quickly, the braces shook and at one point looked as if the door would crash down. Doesn’t convey we’ve entered a building.
The other design choice made that puzzled me was the elevator upstage left on the wall. Most apartment elevators would be a tad larger to accommodate furniture. Instead, this one appeared rather tightly compact. As well, when officer Bill pushed the button, and got into and out of the elevator, he had to pull the door open and closed instead of it opening and closing automatically. That brought me out of the moment when this occurs.
Carley Melvin’s lighting design subtly and effectively underscores the intensity of the scene when needed. However, there were a couple of times when some actors were in shadows, and I had difficulty deciding how I was to pay attention to this scene. Bjorn Kriel’s sound design of the outside noise of midtown Manhattan evoked a real sense of being in New York City.
Where this production does shine is the character performance and their various emotional levels. Directed with a solidly believable understanding of each moment by Liam Eric Dawson, I saw some very real characters on the Alumnae stage.
Anthony Goncharov intently listens and responds naturally as the insecure Jeff. At one point he tells rookie officer Dawn something about her partner, Bill, who is upstairs with one of the building’s residents. When Bill returns to confront Jeff, Connor Briggs smartly plays with Goncharov at first to set him at ease before the imposing threat of intimidation not to talk about whatever Jeff sees ever again with Dawn. This moment is terrific to watch the cat and mouse game between the two, and the look on Goncharov’s face indicated to me he was going to follow through with Briggs’ suggestion. Connor Briggs brings just that right amount of cocky smarm both in his police-swaggering gait and on his face that just made me bristle inside.
Emily Anne Corcoran builds a credible emotionally conflicting intensity as rookie cop, Dawn. She wants to be the best officer she can be. However, Corcoran offers quite an interesting take on how she deals with her possibly developing interest in Jeff juxtaposed with how she deals with her smugly and ingratiating cop partner, Bill.
I remained completely and fully engaged with Matthew G. Brown’s performance as building security supervisor, William. There remains a bubbling intenseness in Brown’s work that I kept wondering if, and or when there would be a complete explosive gush of anger as William has many responsibilities to which he must tend. There is a fixation on ensuring Jeff writes down when police enter the building to visit residents. William is also faced with an ethical dilemma regarding his brother and the possible murder investigation.
Final Comments: On the theatre scene, it’s exciting to see how change and growth can strongly influence a new professional theatre company on the ground floor and where it is headed if the right decisions have been made in the process. As Icarus is a new theatre company, I’m sure there was a limited budget.
I want to keep an eye on Icarus in the future. I spoke with Artistic Director Anthony Goncharov after the show for a few minutes and I could sense he is set to move forward in meeting growth and change and confronting artistic challenges on all levels.
I look forward to Icarus’s next production.
But go and see ‘Lobby Hero’ by all means to support a new professional theatre company.
Running time: approximately two hours and fifteen minutes with one intermission.
‘Lobby Hero’ runs until December 17 at Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley Street, Toronto. For tickets: onstagedirect.com/lobbyhero or at the door on performance night. Evening performances begin at 7 pm while matinees begin at 2 pm.
‘Lobby Hero’ by Kenneth Lonergan
An Icarus Theatre Production
Co-Producers: Anthony Goncharov and Liam Eric Dawson
Executive Producer: Anthony Sweeney
Directed by Liam Eric Dawson
Stage Manager: Lauren Fahey
Set Designer: Naomi Daryn Boyd
Lighting Designer: Carley Melvin
Sound Designer: Bjorn Kriel
Performers: Connor Briggs, Matthew G. Brown, Emily Anne Corcoran, Anthony Goncharov