STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
In the lobby of an upscale apartment building, four lives collide in a single night, throwing a young African American man and two white cops — a female rookie and her charismatic male partner — into a moral tailspin. That’s the story of “Lobby Hero,” Theatre Horizon’s latest production.
“Lobby Hero” takes place during three days in Manhattan. It delves headlong into the sociology, sexual politics, moral ambiguities, and cultish behavior of the New York City police force, said director and Theatre Horizon co-founder Matthew Decker in an email interview. Written by Oscar nominee Kenneth Lonergan, “Lobby Hero” is a character-driven story “that possesses enormous sensitivity to and appreciation for imperfections, humor, loneliness, warmth and rage,” Decker said.
Despite its intense themes, the play, which essentially is a character study of four people, is also extremely funny.
“My job as the director is to make sure that the humor plays, and we strike the right tones in depicting the difficult subject matter,” Decker said. “Even in the darkest of circumstances, we still are able to crack a joke or a smile.”
Kevin Meehan, who plays Bill, said if the actors do their jobs right, the show won’t be about anything.
“It’ll ask a lot of questions of an audience,” he said in an email interview, “which in my opinion is far more engaging. I feel like it really explores the concept of a moral compass, how fluid it is in the face of humanity, and just how fragile convictions can end up being at the end of the day.”
He easily relates to his character.
“Bill is a no-nonsense-punch-you-in-the-gut kind of guy when it comes to his professional life, and he’s eager to go above and beyond the call of duty, to various degrees,” he said. “Like me, Bill is full of convictions and contradictions. He appears to be rather straightforward, perhaps simple at times, but he more complicated than that. He’s able to hold two contradictory thoughts in his head, both holding completely true to him.”
Meehan thinks the show will have people talking. That’s due in part to the great writing.
“The script is downright incredible. It’s a well written piece of theater with incendiary consequences for an audience,” he said. “It’s also very funny, until it’s not.”
Rachel Camp, who plays Dawn, a probationary police officer from Brooklyn, N.Y. in her third month on the force, agrees that the writing is superb. She knows it will encourage people to discuss what they’ve seen.
“The conversation you will have on the ride home is important to us,” she said in an email interview. “We want to spark new ways of looking at very, very old problems.”
Camp doesn’t relate to many circumstances of Dawn’s life, but understands her as a woman.
“She’s figuring out how to maintain her professionalism in the middle of an intimate affair with her partner. Her professionalism is challenged all the more by the aggressive sexism she experiences in her male-dominated workplace,” she said. “I can relate to trying to find my voice and strength in a world driven by men. The injustice of insidious and blatant sexism in our culture resonates as strongly in me as it does in her. We simply wear our feelings differently. Dawn is far tougher and far less emotional than I am, but we are fighting the same fight.”
Camp thinks that the more people talk about sexism, racism, and injustice, the harder it will be for people to stop pretending that those things don’t exist.
“They do exist. They’re complicated. They’re not easily solved,” she said. “And we don’t pretend to solve them, but we hope to contribute to the ongoing conversation. ‘Lobby Hero’ is about trying to dissect right and wrong in a subjective and complicated world.”