Lobby Hero by Kenneth Lonergan, directed by David Ferry, with Paulino Nunes, Joanne Marrella, Paul Eves and Dwight Ireland. Presented by Pilot Project at the Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs (26 Berkeley). Runs to June 14, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 1:30 pm. $15-$20. 416- 368-3110. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
Playwright-turned-screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan has been hailed as a bright new light in the off-Broadway firmament. It's understandable, based on the psychological and moral complexities of You Can Count On Me and now his play Lobby Hero, on over at the Berkeley.Set during two consecutive late nights in the lobby of a New York high-rise apartment, Lobby Hero shows what happens when authority takes a wrong turn.
Security inspector William's (Dwight Ireland) about to perjure himself to provide an alibi for his no-good brother who's accused of murder, while scuzzy ladder-climbing cop Bill (Paulino Nunes) is willing to back William up.
Influenced by these lies are security guard Jeff (Paul Eves) and novice cop Dawn (Joanne Marrella), whose fates predictably but charmingly intertwine.
Lonergan's dialogue is sharp, and he's found a clever metaphor in the lobby as life's waiting area, emphasized by the ever-shifting, purgatorial lighting design by Glenn Davidson and Jason Golinsky.
The show needs a subtler hand, though, than director David Ferry's. Conversations turn into shouting matches and the pace often feels slack. Ireland's obviously under-trained, and chisel-jawed Eves is seriously miscast in the central role of Jeff. A plainer, more Everyman character - Lonergan nods to Chayevsky's Marty in a line - would register more sympathetically.
Nunes walks away with the play under his billy club. Oozing survival-of-the-fittest arrogance, he gives his cop a smug swagger and nasty mean streak that's entirely watchable. As usual, the villain's more interesting than the good guy.