Four characters in search of security Lobby Hero opens at the Adobe Rose Theatre
IN SEARCH OF SECURITY
Though he is capable of witty small talk, Jeff is one of those not-so-young-anymore guys who just can’t find his way. His stint in the military didn’t go well, and he doesn’t hold down jobs for long — possibly because he tends to say whatever’s on his mind, regardless of the circumstances. He’s currently working security at a New York City apartment building where his supervisor, William, tries to counsel him toward a more constructive future. Jeff is such a joker, though, that William isn’t always sure it’s worth the effort.
“William believes in Jeff and thinks he has potential, and he wants to help him find something that he’s great at. Some people don’t find that, ever. Some people spend most of their time looking for it,” said Scott Adrian Shettig, a recent theater graduate from Santa Fe University of Art and Design who plays the role of William in Lobby
Hero, written by Kenneth Lonergan, which opens at the Adobe Rose Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 8.
The relationship between the two men is just one of the ways the play looks at power and class. Jeff (Dylan Thomas Marshall) and William are rent-a-cops who stand in contrast to the “real” police officers, Dawn (Merritt Glover) and Bill (Vaughn Irving), who walk the neighborhood beat around the apartment building in which Jeff and William work. Bill is a decorated hero, a local legend on the force; Dawn is a rookie who has to struggle for the respect of her male peers.
“There is some degree of manipulation between them, as well as between the cops and the guards,” said Staci Robbins, who is directing the production. Robbins lives in Albuquerque and has been a character actress for many years. She has appeared in several locally produced television series, including
Longmire and Better Call Saul. “There is a lot in this play about masculinity and how you handle it,” said Irving. “The three male characters — Bill, William, and Jeff — all have very different views of what it means to be a man, and they end up twisting it to however they feel suits them, which is something I feel that, as a man, I do as well. Bill takes it to an extreme where he’s created this hyper-masculine, hyper-powerful persona, whereas with Jeff we see this disenfranchised guy who doesn’t want to play that game.” Irving is the artistic director at the Santa Fe Playhouse. His appearance at the Adobe Rose seems to be indicative of an increasing level of collaboration between local theaters in the past several months, efforts that have also resulted in an all-Santa Fe theater website, www.theatresantafe.com, and creative space arrangements between theaters with permanent performance spaces and those without.
Lobby Hero premiered Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in New York City in March 2001. A second run of the play, at the John Houseman Theater, closed on Sept. 2 that year. The New York setting of Lobby
Hero predates 9/11, smartphones, wide use of social media, and the militarization of the country’s police force that has led to mounting friction between law enforcement and the communities they are supposed to serve. But police brutality and abuse of power aren’t new problems. Though Robbins described Lobby Hero as set in “a calmer time of race relations between civilians and police,” the abuse-of-power themes are strong in the play, as when Bill uses his influence to help William out of a potentially sticky situation while also attempting to exert control over his partner Dawn’s career. The plot centers around these two flashpoints, with all four characters working their own angles.
“William has always been a truthful person, but it’s never been much of a struggle for him to tell the truth before,” Shattig said. “Now he has to question his own beliefs and his connection to his family. That puts him in a very difficult position.”
“It’s so easy for a powerful police officer to pervert that power and use it incorrectly,” Irving said. “Bill constantly wants to prove himself, and in order to do that, he’s essentially screwing up other people’s lives. He’s not necessarily violent, but he’s gone so far down the rabbit hole that he’s not even aware that what he’s doing is bad. He uses whatever tactic he can.”
At first glance, Irving is an unusual casting choice for a power-hungry New York City beat cop. His acting roles have often been, in his words, “dorky, quirky, charming guys,” so he assumed when he auditioned that he would be cast as Jeff. But Robbins had Irving, Shattig, and Marshall read at the same time, and in Irving, she saw a physical maturity and approach to the character that convinced her he was right for the part. Shattig, on the other hand, seems perfectly cast as the serious-minded William, who has been working at the security company since he was sixteen and has risen through the ranks. Now in his twenties, he has a sense of purpose Jeff lacks. Jeff, in spite of — or perhaps because of — his military background, has very little respect for authority. He openly flirts with Dawn and refuses to kowtow to Bill’s status as the most senior law enforcement officer in the vicinity.
“Jeff is going to process his thoughts out loud with anyone in the room, whether or not it has anything to do with the conversation at hand,” Robbins said. “He just doesn’t get it. He’s not malicious. It’s just the way he moves through the world. He really wants to listen to William’s advice, but he can only listen for so long before he gets distracted.”
Jennifer Levin I The New Mexican