Michael Cera and Chris Evans usher Second Stage into its new Broadway home in Kenneth Lonergan's smart dilemma play
Theater review by Adam Feldman
Michael Cera plays a security guard in Lobby Hero, which is a good joke right off the bat. Does any actor seem more inherently insecure? His voice is a low-key flute; his head cranes forward slightly from his gangling body as he shifts his weight from one foot to another, hands stuffed awkwardly in his pants; he struggles and fails to look casual when putting a pen in his shirt pocket. Second Stage's Broadway revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s tonally mercurial 2001 play, directed by Trip Cullman, uses Cera’s ineffectual persona to deft comic effect, even as it smartly explores weighty questions of spinelessness and courage.
Cera’s Jeff is a slacker who works the graveyard shift at a Manhattan apartment building. His upright supervisor, William (the pitch-perfect Brian Tyree Henry) is dealing with a serious crisis: He must decide whether to provide an alibi for his brother, a suspect in a murder investigation. Lonergan sets this dilemma in counterpoint with another ethical quandary, about how rookie cop Dawn (the baby-faced Bel Powley, slipping too often into cartoon) should deal with her slickly menacing partner, Bill (a mustached and charismatic Chris Evans, hilariously douchey). The social issues that Lobby Hero touches on—sexual harassment, racial bias in the justice system, the blue wall of silence—are as topical now as when it premiered, but the play's lens is rigorously trained on the personal. Jeff, a chatterbox, is entrusted with secrets that he may not be able to keep, and Lonergan keeps the audience off-balance about his characters’ morality and motivations as the play vacillates between tragedy and humor. As the dramatic waters rise, Jeff bobs with the tides, moored to his desk: a lost buoy in rough seas.
Hayes Theater (Broadway). By Kenneth Lonergan. Directed by Trip Cullman. With Michael Cera, Chris Evans, Brian Tyree Henry, Bel Powley. Running time: 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.