By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Meet actor Drew Wall, who makes such a strong impression as the lead in Lobby Hero that his fellow actors have to dance to his tune or end up as talking furniture on designer Stew Awalt's realistic set. Wall plays Jeff, a twitchy young nightshift security guard working the foyer desk of a Manhattan apartment building. Stringy dark hair hanging over his pale forehead, Wall's Jeff affects the posture of a droopy question mark. He only perks up when his supervisor, William (Akron Watson), drops in to make sure he's not sleeping on the job.
The men fill quiet hours after midnight with the meaningless banter of night-workers bored and starved for company. William complains about his bosses. Jeff spins sexual fantasies and spews stories about his father, a war veteran fond of putting down his son. Jeff can't stand being around groups of men, which made him an early washout in the Navy, but he's also scared of women.
Then one night William shares a confidence: His no-account brother is a suspect in a brutal rape and murder. The brother has asked William to back up a fake alibi. It's the ultimate test of loyalty for William, who can't decide between truth and the fraternal bond. When two cops—Bill (Mike Schraeder) and rookie partner Dawn (Allison Pistorius)—visit the lobby for unofficial reasons (Bill's got a mistress on the 22nd floor), Jeff lets a few too many details slip about William's dilemma and gets himself caught between a rock and a hard place.
Each character deals with moral ambiguities in Lobby Hero, but it's mostly Jeff we worry about. He's the most vulnerable and, as played by Wall, the most likable person onstage. Borrowing a little of Steve Buscemi's nasal bark and some of Don Knotts' funny physical quivers, Wall turns out one of the best performances in this or any other Second Thought season. He brings that welcome touch of authentic human frailty to a play about what happens when a little guy tries to do the right thing for the wrong reason.
Michael Serrecchia's semi-soft direction works against his cast of good actors by having them stand in profile nearly all the time. That throws their voices against the sides of the set and doesn't let us get a look at their faces. He's also miscast Pistorius, who isn't right to play a New York cop. There's something about her physical dimensions that make her look awkward flirting with her wiry, younger-looking co-star.
Despite those quibbles, check out Lobby Hero for Drew Wall. His career is going up.