Chris Evans trades a Captain America shield for an NYPD badge in his Broadway debut in Kenneth Lonergan’s drama “Lobby Hero.”
Evans’s deft performance is one of the pluses of this fine-tuned show, which marks Second Stage’s inaugural Broadway production at the renovated Hayes Theater.
Seen Off-Broadway in 2001, the funny-sad play presents a group portrait of four nighthawks who collide in the foyer of a Manhattan high-rise.
The elevator is prominent in the revolving set for a reason: Everybody’s trying to ascend. But gender, race and personalities get in the way.
In the city that never sleeps, Jeff (Michael Cera), 27, is scraping by working the graveyard shift as a security guard in the apartment building. His strictly by-the-book boss, William (Brian Tyree Henry), rides him hard. He insists that there be no sleeping on the job.
Two people help keep Jeff from catching zzzz’s. Bill (Evans), a married veteran cop who comes by for booty calls with a tenant. Dawn (Bel Powley), Bill’s infatuated rookie partner, is clueless about why her fellow cop is there.
It all starts out easy-breezy. Jeff chats up Dawn, whom he’s clearly interested in. But things turn more serious when William’s brother gets arrested for a horrible crime and he considers providing a fake alibi to save him from a racist criminal justice system.
Meanwhile Jeff, who can’t keep his mouth shut, reveals Bill’s true colors to Dawn. That drives a wedge between the partners. Loyalties are tested. Hard choices are made. Lives are changed.
Lonergan, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for “Manchester by the Sea,” specializes in flawed sad sacks and self-sabotagers. He has an all-too-rare gift of perfect pitch when it comes to dialogue.
The cast, guided by director Trip Cullman, make the most of the script and skillfully navigate the play’s plot and tonal twists.
Besides a passable New Yawk accent, Evans brings just the right intimidating swagger and charisma as the popular veteran cop.
As the ethically conflicted William, Henry makes every word believable. Powley, an English actress, is persuasive and sympathetic as disillusioned Dawn, who finds herself face-to-face with an old boys network.
Cera, who starred in Lonergan’s “This Is Our Youth,” is a master at playing men with arrested development. The role of Jeff lands right in his sweet spot — and he makes the most of it seemingly effortlessly. He never pushes for a laugh, they just roll out, like waves. His presence makes the play funnier, sadder and sweeter. He is the show’s MVP — if not its hero.
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