Second Stage has just become the latest Off-Broadway company to establish a full-time Broadway home, while still maintaining two other addresses. It has refurbished Broadway’s smallest theatre, the 589-seater Helen Hayes, in striking cobalt blue, with the stated intention of becoming the only Broadway house devoted exclusively to producing living American playwrights.
Lobby Hero is its inaugural production in the new space. Kenneth Lonergan’s 2001 play began life Off-Broadway and it feels slightly under nourished on a Broadway stage. That’s in part down to David Rockwell’s design. It puts the single-set lobby on a revolve, but wilts against the splendour of the theatre – also designed by Rockwell.
The play takes the form of a smart, but only intermittently dramatic dance, from four New York characters: an apartment building doorman and his overbearing supervisor, and a visiting cop (who has a mistress in the building) and his female sidekick. It’s a series of character studies in search of a plot, though it has been given Broadway-level star casting to embellish it.
Arrested Development’s Michael Cera is appropriately awkward as the night doorman who hopes that his life will amount to more than this dead-end job; his performance contains a palpable sadness. Chris Evans, best known for playing Captain America, has the right sense of swagger as a cop of inflated self-importance, but the discomfort emanating from the character also feels like it is coming from the actor, here making his Broadway stage debut.
More confident are Brian Tyree Henry, as the doorman’s supervisor, and rising British actor Bel Powley as the second cop, who bring more complex, nuanced unease to their performances.