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"Lobby Hero" raises question of morality

by Sarah Morris - Copy Editor
Tue, Feb 27th 2018 11:00 pm

For the first play of the Spring 2018 semester, The College at Brockport’s Department of Theatre will perform “Lobby Hero,” a drama/comedy play written by Academy Award winner Kenneth Lonergan, best known for his screenplay, “Manchester by the Sea.”

The play consists of only four characters: Jeff, a security guard; his boss, William; Dawn, a police officer; and Bill, Dawn’s partner and “romantic” interest. The play focused mainly on Jeff, whose over-sharing tendencies makes some people uncomfortable. However, his constant intruding in others’ personal lives somehow gets them all to open up to him. Through this security guard, or “lobby hero,” the audience is able to piece together the stories of the characters and a murder alibi through conversation between Jeff and the other characters.

To prepare for the play, the actors spent five to six days of their week in between classes, rehearsing their lines. Shaquan Harris, who portrayed William, felt that he himself gained a lot from his first experience acting at Brockport. 

“Practices ranged from an hour and a half to five hours long,” Harris said. “Sometimes between classes, most times in the evenings like six on. Sometimes I’d leave straight from a night class, right to a rehearsal.”

All that practice paid off, too. Opening night, “Lobby Hero” completely sold out and received a very positive response from the audience. 

“People laughed when they were supposed to laugh, which was awesome,” Harris said. “Saturday was a little less than opening night, but still pretty good. The matinee attracted different people. We had an interpreter at that show so members of the deaf community were there also. It was definitely much quieter.”

What wasn’t quiet was Jeff the security guard, portrayed by Chris Speelman, who had more lines than any other character in the play. 

“It was tough memorizing [my lines], but I had friends help me with them,” Speelman said. “Once you kind of get into the rhythm of it, it was pretty easy. We just practiced them over and over again, and it just kind of stuck with me.”

“Lobby Hero” was both Harris and Speelman’s first play at Brockport, and both enjoyed it so much, they’re looking forward to doing another in the near future. 

“I would love to do another play,” Speelman said. “It’s a good experience. You meet people and you have a good time doing it. My major is English, but my minor is definitely theater after this. It’s been a fun ride.”

Though the play didn’t have a villian, Bill’s character, who was played by Steve Penta, could be pinned as the main antagonist. Unlike the cheerful Jeff, Bill was more gruff and angry, and definitely brought some controversy on the stage with his anger issues and manipulative “rape” tactics. 

“That’s a very subtle notion that I feel like a lot of people don’t pick up from the first showing, but reading the script multiple times and really doing a huge in depth analysis, I think Bill definitely has his own version of justice, in which he rides on the edges of moral and ethical behavior that can go real south, real quick,” Penta said. “That’s how he operates.”

Penta has played a variety of characters in the past, but none as dark as Bill. 

“I definitely had to take a different path when developing [Bill],” Penta said. “A lot of the things he does is so controversial and so skewed and distorted, you almost have to kind of reverse engineer why he thinks the way he does because even though a lot of the things he does, or alludes to is morally or ethically wrong as far as what society deems as, it’s still rational thought. It’s important when you’re playing a character to believe what they believe, so the audience believes that you believe, what they believe.”

“Lobby Hero” will also be showing March 1-3 at 7:30 p.m. and March 3-4 at 2 p.m. at the Tower Fine Arts Center Black Box. General admission for adults is $17, $12 for seniors, alumni, faculty and staff, and $9 for Brockport students. Tickets can be purchased online at fineartstix.brockport.edu and at the Tower Fine Arts box office. 

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