“Lobby Hero” premiered in 2001, but boy is it timely now. And that’s just one of many good reasons for Second Stage to choose Kenneth Lonergan’s superb play for its inaugural production on Broadway at the Hayes Theatre.
The drama with pointed humor features four characters: Two New York City police officers and two apartment building security guards. Working the graveyard shift, the guards, regarded as imitation cops, have a bit of an inferiority complex. The real cops are conversely arrogant.
Lonergan, known for his exploration of the moral and ethical grey areas in modern life, has given each of the characters a particular dilemma to work through. And under Trip Cullman’s expert direction, it’s fascinating to watch this excellent company tie it all together,
In a role he could play in his sleep, Michael Cera is perfect as Jeff, essentially a doorman with a badge. He’s a chatty guy, nakedly sincere who’s finally on an upswing after leading a life as something of a loser. Brian Tyree Henry, also brilliantly cast, plays his boss William, a disciplined taskmaster who runs a tight ship. Naturally they clash and their exchanges are as revealing as they are funny.
They’re frequently visited overnight by Bill, a veteran cop, and his rookie partner Dawn. Chris Evans, famed as Captain America in the movies, does a complete about-face in his Broadway debut as a sexist pig with an inflated ego, and he is wonderful. Dawn is infatuated at first, but she, too does an about-face when she discovers Bill’s unsavory motives. In this #MeToo era, Dawn’s reckoning gets a deserved cheer. Bel Powley’s spunky performance cuts to the heart of this fine play.
“Lobby Hero” is packed with issues that resonate in very big ways today - gender, race, police abuse and the entire criminal justice system, But it’s also simply about the conflicted impulses that make us all so terribly and confoundingly human.