Lobby Hero at Oklahoma City’s Carpenter Square Theatre is a thrilling, funny, emotional ride of twists, turns and turbulence that is well worth the trip.
The Carpenter Square stage was beautifully transformed into a colorful, ornate yet modest middle-income Manhattan apartment lobby. The realistically worn present day backdrop served as the canvas on which a complex picture would be painted. The result was a masterpiece as Kenneth Lonergan’s script was brought to life with the brilliant brush strokes of Doobie Potter’s direction, admirably executed by a cast that meshed together with a delightful chemistry to strike just the right balance of toughness, vulnerability and tension.
Albert Bostick is masterful as William, the curmudgeonly, micromanaging supervisor – correction, “captain” – of a security detail. Having worked his way up the ranks since his teens, William is the consummate security professional, demanding dedication, excellence and integrity from his subordinates. It is his own integrity, however, that is at stake as he is forced to make a choice between honesty and loyalty when he finds himself embroiled in a murder investigation involving his brother. Bostick perfectly captures William’s angst as he unravels, spiraling from no-nonsense perfectionist boss to mere conflicted mortal consumed by secrets and lies that initially expose a chink in his armor, and gradually disintegrate his tough exterior altogether.
David Burkhart is amazingly brilliant as Jeff, the dishonorably discharged son of a decorated war hero who finds himself working a dead end job as a security guard as a last-ditch attempt to live a respectable life that would make his deceased father proud. Jeff seems an unflappable jokester, ruffling William’s feathers at every opportunity, but soon becomes more emotionally transparent and reveals a lonely, troubled side. Jeff attempts to maintain a positive outlook despite numerous life setbacks, but his failure to meet his father’s expectations, as well as his own, leave him longing for something more fulfilling. Jeff sets his sights on a job in advertising, but fate has a much bigger assignment for him. Burkhart’s charm, wit and skillful comedic timing are evident from the start, masking a tremendous emotional depth that is gradually unveiled as the tale unfolds.
Edward Irby, Jr. and Huliamatu Bah are a pair of New York City police officers who transform the lobby into a cauldron of drama for William and Jeff – as well as for themselves. Irby is sensational as the narcissistic Bill, a suave, street-wise cop who is alternately charming and sinister. Bah totally captivates the audience as Dawn, the naïve, impressionable yet tough rookie cop who looks up to Bill and also carries a torch for him. Bill soon extinguishes the torch, with a little unsolicited help from Jeff, who carries a torch of his own for Dawn.
Dawn quickly learns the dark side of police work as her ideals and innocence are inadvertently shattered by Jeff’s stunning revelation regarding the escapades of her partner, the heavy handed, slick talking Bill. As Jeff and Dawn grow closer, however, she pulls an even deeper revelation out of him, one that will rock everyone’s world but will perhaps prove to be their salvation as well.
Everyone shines in this cast, but Burkhart deserves special recognition as the catalyst for everyone’s emotional undoing, including his own. He is indeed a hero in this cast. Bostick expertly brings William’s conflict as well as his pride to life with seasoned flair, providing a veteran presence that causes the cast to rise to the occasion, and serving as the perfect foil for Burkhart. Irby makes the audience hate him, while simultaneously being amused by his vicious charm and unpredictable volatility. Bah pulls us to her side, displaying a sweet, disarming vulnerability that is perfectly offset by a tough idealism and fighting spirit that makes everyone root for her. She truly brings out the hero in Burkhart’s Jeff, as well as within herself.
All in all, Lobby Hero is a huge win for Potter, the cast and Carpenter Square Theatre.
For more information about Lobby Hero and other Carpenter Square productions, visit http://www.carpentersquare.com.
Brian C. Scott