Four char­ac­ters in search of se­cu­rity Lobby Hero opens at the Adobe Rose Theatre

IN SEARCH OF SE­CU­RITY

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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

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