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‘Lobby Hero’ adds depth to comedic characters

By JULIE McHALE - Post Theater Critic

December 1, 2016

 

Chris Klopatek as Jeff and Sara Zientek as Dawn in the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s “Lobby Hero.
Paul Ruffolo

MILWAUKEE - Kenneth Lonergan, though not a particularly prolific playwright and film script writer, is one of pristine quality. His film “You Can Count on Me” was a rave, and his upcoming film “Manchester by the Sea” is already receiving excellent reviews.

His present work, “Lobby Hero,” is a sterling drama, one with humor, depth, complex characters and a hint of romance.

Jeff, the lead character, is a night-shift security guard in a run-of-the-mill apartment building in the Bronx. Chris Klopatek, an alumnus of Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, is continuing to grow and flourish as an actor. This role is a perfect fit for his talent.
The other three characters are Jeff’s compulsive supervisor, William (Di’Monte Henning), who stops by every night to check on his employee; and two cops, Bill (Andrew Edwin Voss) and Dawn (Sara Zientek). Bill is hoping to attain his star status and move up to detective rank. He is self-serving, self-impressed and manipulative, but can also be charming and helpful if it’s to his advantage. However, he is also a womanizer, a liar and a man of puny conscience.

His present partner, Dawn, is a fledgling cop, trying to make it in a macho world but making some major mistakes in the process. All the characters are flawed, which makes them real, and all are struggling with some ethical issues.

Jeff begins to be attracted to Dawn, but she is too confused about her job and her obsession with Bill, whom she worships. She also thinks she is superior to Jeff, whom she labels as a “doorman,” which he finds insulting. He already thinks he’s a hapless nobody and doesn’t need anyone reminding him.

William, who is black, is meticulous about his job and proud of his rank as captain in a security company. He has just learned that his brother, who has led an entirely different life, has just been arrested for being an accomplice to theft, rape and murder, a story that Jeff inches out of him in the midst of one of their nightly conversations. William has been asked to provide an alibi for his brother.

As time goes on, we begin to see all four characters with greater clarity.  We struggle with William’s moral dilemma over truth or loyalty to his brother; we empathize with Dawn’s precarious position in her male-dominated world; we cheer for Jeff’s progress toward achieving his minimal dreams of finding a better job, an apartment of his own, and a possible love relationship; and we are repelled by Bill’s exploitative maneuvers.

Everyone seems to be looking for a hero, and Lonergan certainly raises the issue of whether or not anyone deserves that title. Is anyone really deserving of our unmitigated admiration, or are we all just flawed human beings, making choices on our own notions of right and wrong, good and evil?

This play certainly points up the complexity of ethical decisions.  Hopefully it makes us less judgmental and more forgiving.

This is one of the best scripts I’ve ever encountered, and with a flawless cast and the gifted director, C. Michael Wright, at the helm, you are sure to enjoy your encounter with a “Lobby Hero” and the three people who drift into his realm every night.

AT A GLANCE

“Lobby Hero”
The play runs through Dec. 18 in the Studio Theater at the Broadway Theater Center, 158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee.  Call 414-291-7800 or visit milwaukeechambertheatre.com for times and tickets.