Alliance Theatre Lab's Lobby Hero Paints Morality in Shades of Gray

Last Night, the Alliance Theatre Lab production of Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero was ushered in by Eminem's "Without Me." It's final scene was capped by some sappy elevator melody (fitting for a play that centers around a doorman --- er, security guard --- we suppose). 

It would make it easy for this reviewer if that downward energy shift in musical styles was in some way parallel to the momentum of the play, but that kind of neatly packaged analogy doesn't fit here at all. In fact, we suspect it's something the playwright would have despised.


no real hero here. In fact, the very existence of heroes seems to be

called into question through the moral dilemmas that arise, which the

audience is forced to sit in along with the characters on stage. In the

Alliance's production, directed by Adalberto Acevedo, the script's

shades of gray are painted with a capable hand, with some exceptions.

Our hero of the lobby is security guard named Jeff (Mark Della Ventura), a 27-year-old, self-proclaimed "fuck up" who got kicked out of the Navy for smoking weed, just got out of a relationship with a part-time hooker, and is astonished that he's held this job for a full nine months. His boss and mentor, William (Mcley Lafrance), seems both exasperated with his bumbling protege and involuntarily fond of him. 

The play's first and most extreme moral dilemma arises with William's news that his semi-estranged, no-good brother has been arrested for a grisly murder, and has asked William to confirm a false alibi that involves a brotherly trip to the movies. 

The second moral quandary appears with the arrival of seasoned police officer Bill (David Sirois) and his rookie partner, Dawn (Anne Chamberlain). It becomes clear that the two have been engaging in some "off-beat" activities together, and whether as a result of oxytocin release or having actually witnessed some of his heroic feats, Dawn is absolutely smitten. That is, until our lobby hero, who has taken a shine to the lady cop, lets the cat out of the bag on some of Bill's less than admirable on-the-job behavior --- namely banging the prostitute in apartment 22J while his naive young partner waits in the lobby.

So our "hero" exhibits very questionable motives in this revelation of truth. Does he tell Dawn about Bill to protect her, or to win her for himself? When Jeff admits (to Dawn of all people - way to go, Casanova) that he'd love to get away with similar skeevery himself, if he only knew how, it becomes pretty clear that his sudden need for honesty is mostly selfishly driven. But Bill's behavior is so reprehensible, we end up siding with Jeff nonetheless.

Later, our loquacious protagonist makes another confession, this time about his boss's brother's murder case. We're faced with more questions: is he really trying to do the right thing? Is he desperately trying to force Dawn closer to him, fabricating intimacy by letting her in on what he knows about the case? And how much of what Dawn does with that information is self-seeking, and how much in the interest of justice?

Mark Della Ventura bears a pretty striking resemblance to Seth Rogan both aesthetically and in his funny-cute delivery of his lines. Sometimes we felt he tried too hard to push the cuteness factor, reaching for some laughs that didn't always materialize in the small audience with his silly helpless smiles and clumsy gesticulations. 

Overall, though, we were impressed by his surprising conversational delivery of an immense lot of chatter. The script (especially Jeff's dialog) is written with an alarming "real people" feel. And Della Ventura nailed that, babbling on in simultaneously stupid and smart over-analyses of the mundane, as though he were coming up with it all on the spot. He was so good as the hopeless, artless funny guy, though, that we found some of the character's more serious scenes hard to accept.

Mcley Lafrance's performance initially interrupted our ability to lock into the action onstage. Though the duo had some good chemistry at the outset, Lafrance tripped on many lines. This problem disappeared completely before the end of the first act, though, and Lafrance's character's moral burden was palpable in his performance in the second act.

Anne Chamberlain was wonderful as Dawn, striking the balance we think the playwright intended for her character: half tough "New Yawk" chick, half wide-eyed, vulnerable young girl. The cocky gum-chewing expression on her pretty, delicate face morphed seamlessly to jealousy, pain, and anger as she portrayed her character's wide range of emotions. 

And David Sirois (an Alliance veteran) came across like a veritable sociopath, delivering completely contradictory lines to different characters (and sometimes to the same character) with consistent believability. 

His character had one redeeming action: supporting his quasi-friend William through the events around his brother's alleged crime. But we'd have to say that that balancing element got completely lost in the way Sirois portrayed the crooked cop, and we came away feeling like he was all sleaze. We would cautiously wager that the playwright intended a little more ambiguity for Bill.

As Acevedo said himself, the play is full of wounded characters and internal violence, with most of the action unfolding as moral wrestling matches that refuse to produce a clear winner.  Cheers to the Alliance for bringing this thought-provoking play to the South Florida stage.

The play runs Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through November 27 at the Main Street Playhouse. Tickets cost $10 to $25. Go to or call 305-259-0418.

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Camille Lamb Guzman is a journalist who writes on wellness, travel, and culture. She is also finishing a book of creative nonfiction.

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