SARASOTA -- In the FSU/Asolo Consevatory's new production of Lobby Hero, local theater fans get a somewhat rare opportunity to see a contemporary jewel by an up and coming playwright, performed by a cast capable of doing it more than justice. The play, which the New York Times called “the best new American drama of the first decade of this century,” opened last Wednesday at the Cook Theatre and runs through January 22.
| Chris Williams (left) and Brendan Ragan
photo by Frank Atura
The story of an aimless slacker struggling to find his place after being tossed out of the Navy, is a fresh, character-driven take on an age-old story. Jeff, played with sardonic likability by an excellent Brendan Ragan, struggles through a moral dilemma when his cartoonishly straight-laced boss, William (Christopher Williams) confides in him, regarding what appears to be his first-ever brush with major dishonesty.
Jeff's interest in a female police officer named Dawn, played to the nines by a scene-stealing Brittany Proja, sets in motion a series of events that ultimately tempt him to use the sort of honesty and integrity William always condemns him for lacking, only in a manner that has potentially grave consequences for William himself. But as in life, the truly right path is far from clear and each character's motivation appears to lack the selflessness that might provide such clarity.
Fresh off a mesmerizing turn as Alyosha in the theater's last production, The Brothers Kazmarov, Jacob Cooper provides the heavy gravitas that anchors the play, as Dawn's partner Bill. A larger than life "super cop", Cooper turns in another stellar performance in a role that demonstrates impressive range.
Jacob Cooper and Bittany Proja
photo by Frank Atura
Cooper's Bill gives Proja a chance to animate Dawn with a rich believability and their chemistry is distinct. Christopher Williams' performance is perhaps the best of all, conveying the backed-up self-righteousness of a goodie two shoes forever loathing a society in which his monk-like self discipline never seems to be adequately rewarded by proper comeuppance.
Director Brendon Fox elicits defining performances from all four actors, creating an enjoyable evening of first-rate theater. Playwright Kenneth Lonergan was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play for Lobby Hero.
Lonergan, who has also written such acclaimed plays as, "This Is Our Youth," and "The Waverly Gallery," as well as the Oscar-nominated film, "You Can Count on Me," has been called "the new golden boy of stage and screen" by The New York Times.
"Lobby Hero" runs through January 22 at the Cook Theatre in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Productions are Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $28 evenings; $27 matinees. Students receive 50 percent off with advance ticket purchase. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Asolo Rep’s box office at the FSU Center for Performing Arts; 941-351-8000. The 2011-2012 season subscriptions and single tickets are on sale now.
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