In a season dominated by chatter of sequels and superheroes, a change of pace for the Everyman is to get away from the silver screen and into the stage.
"Lobby Hero," opening this weekend at Live Theatre Workshop, chronicles the mundane existence of an affable security guard who works the graveyard shift in a middle-class Manhattan apartment building. But when he faces an out-of-the-ordinary moral dilemma, Jeff must make a decision to do the right thing - even when he doesn't know what the "right thing" is.
"We always like to think that in situations where we know the difference between right and wrong, people are always going to choose right," says Rick Shipman, who is making his directorial debut at the theater. "This deals with the consequences of what happens if you do make the right decision, whether on purpose or accidentally."
Shipman welcomed the opportunity to direct on the venue's small stage, which puts the play's wide emotional range in close reach of the audience. Conflict, tension and a classic case of unrequited love often put Jeff at odds with the other characters. Meanwhile, the internal struggle brought on by the decision he must make manifests itself in unexpectedly tangible ways.
The combination of a small stage and big emotions can give live theater an edge over cinema, Shipman says.
"When you go see something live, and have the ability to react immediately to what's happening in front of you in 3-D, you start to feel like it's all really happening in the moment," he says.
The play has plenty of light moments, but it tackles some dark subjects, such as racism and violence against women, says Shipman. He adds that playwright Kenneth Lonergan, who co-wrote the film "Gangs of New York," manages to convince the audience to root for the "completely unlovable" Jeff: to get the girl, better himself and embrace his role as a hero - at least, within the confines of the apartment foyer.
"I think that everybody will be able to take away something good from the play," Shipman says. "In that case, (Lonergan) has written a real gem."
If You Go
• What: Live Theatre Workshop's "Lobby Hero."
• By: Kenneth Lonergan.
• Director: Rick Shipman.
• When: Previews are 7:30 p.m. today and Friday; opening is 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through July 27.
• Where: 5317 E. Speedway.
• Tickets: $12 preview performances, $18 regular performances; discounts available.
• Running time: Two hours with one intermission.
• Reservations, information: livetheatreworkshop.org or 327-4242.
• Cast: Cliff Madison, Clark Ray, Nick Trice, Carley Elizabeth Preston.
• Et cetera: Contains adult language.
Kate Newton is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org