Section: Arts

Review: Student performances shine in KCDC’s Lobby Hero

Review: Student performances shine in KCDC’s Lobby Hero

From left to right: Arin Laycook ’25, Alexis Mladineo ’24, Thomas, Murphy, Teitelbaum, Omofomah and Diya Chabria ’25 | COURTESY OF CAITLYN JARYSZAK

Ten minutes before showtime, the Kenyon College Dance, Drama & Cinema Club (KCDC)’s Lobby Hero was already in motion. With three artificial potted plants, two couches and one reception desk, the transient feeling of standing in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment filled the Hill Theater on Friday and Saturday. Behind the desk, protagonist and security guard Jeff, played by Jack Teitelbaum ’24, sat and waited with the audience. In a scene comparable to a DVD menu selection screen, Jeff thumbed through a newspaper, idle and unmoving: His graveyard shift had begun.

The play opens with an admittedly slow start. We learn that William — Jeff’s supervisor, played by Osose Omofomah ’26 — is the youngest captain of security personnel in the building’s history. We also learn that he hates seeing his underlings slack off. When William walks onstage and assesses the lobby, it becomes clear that Jeff, though ambitious, is not the most diligent security guard. He forgets to sign visitors in, sleeps through his shifts and pries into the business of anyone who lingers too long in his lobby. When pressed by Jeff, who senses something amiss with his supervisor, William reveals that his brother has been accused of a terrible crime, assuming a false alibi that presents William with an impossible choice.

Throughout the play, Jeff is forced to reconcile his identity as a passive observer with his  secret desire to be part of something great and bigger than himself. Teitelbaum outdid himself again and again, offering comedic relief while agonizing over the decision to act on what he believes is right and wrong — something the audience must grapple with in real time. Omofomah also gave an unflinching performance as William, who faces overwhelming pressure from friends and family to keep his brother out of prison.

Enter Bill: a sleazy and overbearing police officer played by Hank Thomas ’24, who is convinced that a good cop should always back up his fellow officers, regardless of the truth. Thomas succeeds in executing a difficult performance, emotionally and physically. We flinch when he pretends to throw a punch at Jeff, when he raises his voice, when his tone shifts unpredictably. The character transforms from a well-meaning mentor figure to a power-hungry bully filled with corruption and misogyny, cheating on his wife with a woman upstairs while leading on Dawn, a rookie cop who has a misplaced crush on him. Dawn, played by Wyatt Murphy ’24, is mouthy and eager to prove herself as a capable and functioning member of the police department. Bill takes her under his wing as Dawn fails to realize his ulterior motives and conditional support that falls apart when she threatens to report his dubious behavior to their superiors. Murphy’s performance was breathtaking; even at the character’s lowest moments, when she handles situations rashly but with good intentions, the audience is largely sympathetic to her strife. Blackmailed by Bill, who promises that she will remain in the department’s good graces as long as she obeys his every word, Dawn turns to Jeff for help. The threat of sexual assault that looms over her for much of the play is undeniably real, and Lobby Hero is not afraid to confront it for what it is.

Written in 2001, Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero holds up surprisingly well in its handling of complex sociopolitical themes. The script is emotionally nuanced to be sure, but performances by the sharp and memorable cast take things a step further, gripping the audience as characters exchange tense conversations and grapple with the moral ambiguity of their actions. The play explores topics such as issues in the criminal justice system to gender discrimination, racial discrimination, sexual harassment, classism and corruption in a manner both refreshing and raw.

In an explosive finale, truths come to light, and Jeff is no longer the bystander we once knew. He starts at the reception desk, hidden behind a newspaper; by the end, we witness Jeff insert himself into the front page story. In an ironic twist, Jeff gets the girl, though William, Bill and Dawn may continue to suffer the consequences of their own actions. As Jeff exclaims “I’m like the nicest guy in the whole story!,” we are left to wonder whether his hands are really as clean as he says, or if the events of the play were always too large to stay contained in the lobby.

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